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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Our Daily Bread

I WAS just going to go to sleep, but I had to take the dogs out first. As we were coming in, something in the bush outside my door caught my attention, so I had to stop and do a double-take.

There is a piece of a breadcrust stuck in the bush. Near the top, in the branches. Just stuck there. And it's jammed in such a way that it doesn't look like anyone actually PUT it there because in order to do so, they would have caused the thing to crumble to nothing.

So is my bush now growing bread crusts? Just wondering.

Is a bread in the hand worth two in the bush? If so, what is bread in the bush worth?

Each day, I say the Our Father, usually more than once. "Give us this day our daily bread,"

This wasn't really what I had in mind when I asked God for bread. But just the same, I'm glad it's there. Now I'll sleep well, knowing there is a bread crust in the bush outside my door. Just in case its needed.

Thank you, God.

Good night all, God bless, and don't forget to pray for daily bread.

The Fullness of the Cake...uh...Faith

Tonight at RCIA, some people expressed discomfort with the idea that the Catholic faith was the "one true faith", feeling that it's almost elitist. It's an understandable feeling, especially given our culture of relativism. "What's true and good for you is not true and good for me." This idea has so pervaded everything that people are afraid to stand up and speak the simple truth for fear someone might disagree and call them a fascist.

As our discussion continued on from that general topic onto other paths, a thought came to me, and I wondered how to bring it up again, because their concern about the idea of "elitism" really hadn't been answered. Yet is is an honest concern, and deserves an honest answer.

One woman brought it up again, providing the opening for me to interject what had come to me as our topic of conversation had moved on.

Let's say I have this wonderful, glorious cake. It's huge, it's your favorite kind, it's made completely from scratch, no mixes, and I walk right up to you and offer this cake to you. The entire thing. Not because you merit the cake in any way, but "just because." Because you deserve to have a huge cake like this one, with ALL the trimmings, made from scratch.

So say you accept this wonderous cake. Do you just dig into it? Maybe, but more likely you realize that this is meant to be shared, and you'll enjoy it more if you share it, because it's fun to explore something with others who share the same enthusiasm. You see that there are other cakes around, similar to this one, and they are indeed cake, but they don't have the same quality in the cake you have. So you offer to share pieces of your cake with the others who also like cake.

Having this cake doesn't make YOU any better; you are simply the person it was given to, and you accepted it as a gift. And because it's so wonderful and wholesome, you are excited to share it even with those who might already have some cake, because yours has the whole package. They are free to refuse, and you are not offended if they do because you recognize them as fans of cake, so together you simply enjoy your different choice of cakes. We all have to respect the decisions of others, even when we know we have a better product.

But who's to say that the friend doesn't later come back and ask for some of your cake? Who's to say that your friend doesn't get tired of the dried out frozen version processed in a lab somewhere, and come hunting for the real thing?

Keep in mind this entire time; the cake was a free gift to you. You did nothing to merit it, and having ownership of the glorious cake doesn't make you better than anyone else. The CAKE is better, the quality is better than the other cakes, but maybe some people don't like the flavor you have, or maybe they don't want the frosting, or maybe they think they're allergic to some of the contents they think are inside the cake. Maybe they like cookies are are fundamentally suspicious of cake because they were raised without it and told it would only lead to health problems.

Each one of us is offered the gift of Each one of us in the Catholic Church has been called by God to join the Church, to find the fullness of this wonderous gift. And we are called to share it, even with others who might enjoy a different type of cake...or faith.

We don't warrant the gift we have been handed, but we don't look down on those who perhaps don't share our belief that our gift, our Faith, is the corrrect one, the fullness with EVERYTHING. Maybe they prefer Sara Lee, and maybe they're comfortable with that. Let them be; love them because they still love cake, too. They share our passion for the, that is. Let God call them, and focus on the gifts God is giving YOU, focus on where God is leading YOU, and just be open to sharing that gift with others.

We can recognize the truth for ourselves, but we also have to understand that our interior recognition doesn't come from us; it comes from God, and He has a plan. Just be careful, in your recognition of what the Catholic Church is, to not submit to spiritual pride. It is humility to recognize and speak the truth, but this can be done without giving in to the sin of pride, whioh would be like saying, "I'm better than you because I have a bigger cake and mine is made from scratch!".

Sure, it's a better cake...and it's ok to recognize quality. It's proper to admit that the Catholic Church has the fullness of the Christian faith. But it is not proper to suggest that others are less holy and have less merit because they happen to be enjoying the particular kind of cake they were given.

God has a plan for each and every one of us. In the Catholic Church, we have the ENTIRE cake made from scratch, that is, instituted by Jesus Christ himself. There are no artificial ingredients. The frosting is real frosting, and the cake is real cake. It's not frozen, it's not Betty Crocker or Sara Lee, and from the advent of cake to the end of time, there will ALWAYS be cakes made from fresh ingredients, not processed powder. Just as the Catholic Church has endured for 2,000 years, the teachings of faith and morals consistent in spite of the constant pressures of the world, internal and external, to change those teachings.

Other religions, other "cakes" have come and gone, some having more influence than others. But if you look throughout history, they have splintered, many are spintering now...and thus they will crumble like all the others. But the Catholic Church endures and will continue to endure, for the Lord put the seal of the Holy Spirit upon her, and called us to share in that annointing. To follow Jesus to the end of time, from the very beginning.

It IS proper to admit that the Catholic Church is the one true faith, but we have to remember other Christian faiths share many of the same fundamental elements; the belief in the Trinity, life after death, that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, and we share our love of being Christians.

Yet I still offer this disclaimer; while I love my friends of Protestant faiths, and I respect that they have chosen to follow X faith, or enjoy X type of processed cake, I also will not budge in my knowledge that the Catholic Church is the One, Holy Apostolic faith and I want to share this wonderful gift with EVERYONE.

And further disclaimer; although I am Catholic,it does not make me holier than anyone else. I know many Protestants, whom I believe to be far holier than I. My only desire for them is to find the wealth the Church has to offer them and to one day stand weeping as they are recieved into the fold.

We all have a choice, we all have God-given free will. For myself...I thank God every day for offering me this glorious cake, for it has brought me to the foot of the cross and into the embrace of Jesus.

Now...who wants a slice? I've got forks to spare, and ice-cream on the side!

God bless you!

Five Random Things

I saw what I think was a meme some time ago, can't remember where, or who, but I liked the idea: 5 random things about oneself.

Considering the heavy posts lately, I thought that perhaps it's time for something fun, and a little snapshot of what I am.

1. When I was a little girl, although we lived in the upper midwest, I spoke with a British accent. Perfectly.

2. I fell off the stage during a Community Theatre dress rehearsal when I was 16.

3. During my first year of downhill skiing (Giant Slalom racing), I qualified to be in the top 9 of my age category so received an invite to compete at State, where I won a 4th Place medal. Unfortunately, there were only 4 racers in my category at the State competetion. The following season was time and skill were greatly improved, and I won third place, just short of qualifying for Nationals. But again...there were only a total of 4 racers in our category.

4. I used to be a decent artist, and did a portrait of Bl. Mother Therese, which is hanging on my wall. My mother has the only existing print of my original work. I have also sold prints of other works of art I completed in the mid-to-late 1990's.

5. When we were children, my brother once left a shoeprint on my face, and I accidentally broke his nose. Neither incident happened as a result of sibling rivalry.

Who's next?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Barbaro - Rest in Peace

The news broke today that Barbaro, last year's Kentucky Derby winner, was euthanized today.

I remember cheering him to an amazing win at the Derby, and my "money" was on him as I watched him in the Preakness. What an incredible horse! Undefeated! This little colt might really have what it takes to win the elusive Triple Crown!

I remember the sinking feeling when he broke through the gate prior to the start of the Preakness, the second jewel of the Trible Crown, realizing that when that happens, the race is done for that hapless horse. The dream has been dashed by his overly-abundant spirit.

He was reloaded just the same, ready to go, still fighting to run as he'd been born to do.

And then when the line finally broke from the gate, I remember watching him flail, still trying to run, still trying to compete even with a shattered cannon bone. The jockey, Edgar Prado, pulled him up quickly, but there was nothing he could do. Nothing.

Had it been any other horse, he would have been put down on the spot. But no; this colt had promise, and his owners hoped for a miracle. This colt had already captured hearts with his spirit and his dominance on the track. Is it unreasonable to ask that, perhaps, a miracle might happen?

And so they did their best, and fans from all over supported their efforts to save such a promising colt, one who may have commanded prime stud fees in the hope of progeny with his fire.

The article I read today noted an acknowledgment that his owners were not even certain he could stand at stud, for he may be too weak. (As an aside; the regulations surrounding registered racehorces specify that the progeny of a stud must be concieved naturally, not through a laboratory). And still, they continued to work with him, to rehab him in favor of saving his life.

I'm sure some of this was loyalty and sentiment; they had gone so far to try to save him,setback after setback, and when one is committed to such a course, one must stay the course. I'm certain there was social pressure; for so many made donations to assist with the high cost of the surgeries and rehab for Barbaro.

But in the end, in spite of the hope, in spite of the money spent, in spite of everything done on behalf of an equine hero, he has fallen. Nothing more could have been done; those who worked so hard to save his life had to give up in defeat. His injury was just too severe, the complications neverending, the complications, in the end, an insurmountable hurdle.

I am a huge fan of horseracing, thanks to Walter Farley and Marguerite Henry. Thanks to the Black Stallion, Man O'War, and my Dad, who encouraged my interest by bringing me to the local racetrack on my 16th birthday.

I used to want to become a jockey, wanted to become a trainer, dreamed of riding a horse like Barbaro to a Triple Crown victory. A few years ago, while researching the fictional story I began when I was twelve and have resurrected, I obtained a snapshot of life on the backside; life behind the scenes.

In many ways, the horses are simple commodities, but some really stand out. Some become heroes not only to the fans, but to those who work with them. Some show true promise, and everyone, everywhere, is out there looking for the next big horse. The next champion.

The vast majority of racehorses are "claimers", and we never know their names. Their owners play them like cards, just trying to get into the game and stay afloat, yet it grabs them and pulls them in, in spite of the cost, in spite of the aggravation, having promising horses claimed out from under them, in spite of the chance. Because it's a rush, it requires strategy, and because of the people involved. Everyone has a story; every horse has a story, and sometimes, that story ends in the history books. This is the holy grail those of racing seek, even as they work among lowly claimers.

I don't think most people understand what a horse like Barbaro means to those behind the scenes; he can be representative of that horse they all dream about, the "Big One", the "Next Great Horse". The one that never comes. Most people never get to experience a truly great horse, even after a lifetime in the business.

So even those who pitted their racers against Barbaro are affected when one like him goes down. It's a true tragedy, for the blood in his veins is attainable, and even his very existance is inspirational to the entire sport. Racing needs a horse like him, and sadly, as his career was cut short, his story is unfinished and we will never know what he was capable of; we will never know how great he could have been.

Barbaro is now on the books as one of the beloved of American racing, his name forever written with the likes of Seabiscuit, Ferdinand, and Ruffian.

Horseracing, in all its excitement, in the tidal wave it is, is also wrought with heartbreaking tragedy.

Barbaro was a horse who had the heart to go all the way; but in the end, he has become a poster horse for the harsh reality of the tragic end of an amazing and nearly unattainable dream.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

St. Thomas Aquinas - My Blog Patron

Today is the Feast Day of St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, author of the hymn that is my namesake. You may read about his history here.

But on such an auspicious day, I would like to post the words of the hymn I have taken as my anthem, the prayerful words of this great saint which so draws us into the mystery of Jesus Christ's True Presence in the Holy Eucharist.

(taken from

1. Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

2. Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there's nothing true.

3. On the cross thy godhead made no sign to men,
Here thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.

4. I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,
But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;
Let me to a deeper faith daily nearer move,
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love.

5. O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,
Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died,
Lend this life to me then: feed and feast my mind,
There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.

6. Bring the tender tale true of the Pelican;
Bathe me, Jesu Lord, in what thy bosom ran---
Blood whereof a single drop has power to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.

7. Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with thy glory's sight.

Original Latin text:

1. Adoro te devote, latens Deitas,
Quae sub his figuris vere latitas;
Tibi se cor meum totum subjicit,
Quia te contemplans, totum deficit.

2. Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur,
Sed auditu solo tuto creditur;
Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius,
Nil hoc verbo veritatis verius.

3. In Cruce latebat sola Deitas.
At hic latet simul et humanitas:
Ambo tamen credens, atque confitens,
Peto quod petivit latro paenitens.

4. Plagas, sicut Thomas, non intueor,
Deum tamen meum te confiteor:
Fac me tibi semper magis credere,
In te spem habere, te diligere.

5. O memoriale mortis Domini,
Panis vivus vitam praestans homini:
Praesta meae menti de te vivere,
Et te illi semper dulce sapere.

6. Pie pellicane Iesu Domine,
Me immundum munda tuo Sanguine:
Cuius una stilla salvum facere
Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere.

7. Iesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
Oro, fiat illud, quod tam sitio,
Ut te revelata cernens facie,
Visu sim beatus tuae gloriae.

Part 2 - What are Sacramentals?

I recieved several questions pertaining to what sacramentals are, how they are "changed", what makes them special, and how this differs from superstition.

Sacramentals are, "sacred signs instituted by the Church. They are sacred signs that bear a resemblance to the sacraments." (United States Catholic Catechism for Adults). They can further be defined as, "anything set apart or blessed by the Church to excite good thoughts and to help devotion, and thus secure grace and take away venial sin or the temporal punishment due to sin..."

Sacramentals are things such as rosaries, holy water, medals, palms, ashes, scapulars, candles, etc, which have been blessed by a priest. When a priest blesses these objects, he is asking for God to touch those objects and pass on His blessing to all those who use, gaze upon, or come into contact with the object. He is asking that those who use those objects be disposed to God's grace and that the object assist the person in question to greater union with God.

So it is not the sacramental itsef that conveys grace; it is the disposition of the individual in seeking God's grace through the use of the sacramental.

For example, one can pray the rosary with an unblessed rosary; it is still a valid prayer. But once blessed, that rosary is recognized as almost a conduit for grace, it is a tool set aside for a specific purpose, that of bringing people closer to God.

At my house, I have several novena candles, and frequently have them lit, even throughout the night. I use them to remind me to pray for specific intentions or people, as a reminder of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the light of Christ, and that I am to carry that same light beyond the humble walls of my home.

The scapular is a common sacramental/ devotion. There are several, and some involve specific enrollments, certain prayers, certain obligations. It is NEVER a "get out of jail free" card, for it is only, again, a tool. It helps the person wearing it be better disposed to recieve God's grace.

For those who don't know what a scapular is: it is two small squares of cloth of varying colors according to the devotion, attached by two strings so that the squares will fall over the shoulders, resting in front and in back. Originally, a "scapular" was clothing used by consecrated religious which was simply a rectangular cloth with a hole cut out for the head, covering the torso but not the arms. This is still worn by many religious orders as a part of their habits, although it was originally used to cover them and protect their clothing as they worked.

The popular devotional scapular may require certain things of the wearer: for example, the brown scapular (Carmelite) requires that the wearer recieve the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion frequently, pray the Liturgy of the Hours or the Rosary daily, and remain in a state of grace (free from grave sin). There are several published "promises" for this devotion, so it must be noted that in order for those "promises", such as freedom from eternal damnation, still depends upon the person wearing the scapular. So if one puts on the blessed scapular then proceeds to dismember animals and people, that person is not fulfilling their promises.

Any given sacramental is not a talisman; it does not make someone holier to have it, nor does it guarantee salvation. It is a tool of God's grace, something to be used by the individual (or group, as appropriate) to understand and come closer to the Lord.

For Catholics, the next time you ask to have something blessed, consider the words pronounced by the priest upon the object; notice how he is asking that God's grace fall not so much upon the object, but that the object itself is used in accordance wih God's will, that those who gaze upon the icon experience God's grace and love, and that through the use of the object, they will find greater union with Jesus Christ.

And for Protestants or people of other religions; be advised! If you enter a Catholic home and find yourself surrounded by religious art, candles, and maybe prayer cards, realize that by being in the presence of this object, and gazing upon it, the person who has them is praying for YOU to be blessed by God!

Sacramentals are reminders of God's presence in our lives and should be leading us to enter more deeply into the mystery of Jesus Christ and salvation; they are set apart from common objects for this specific divine purpose. Yet always remember; it is the person who uses the sacramental who must be disposed toward God's will in order for the sacramental to be effective.

As always, comments and further information is welcome!

Part 1 - Answers to Questions - Apparitions of Mary

I'm going to try to tackle some of these wonderful questions which were asked in response this post.

1. One thing that was not well explained was the different, "Our Lady's".
We heard Catholics talk about a devotion to a particular lady , ie fatima, Lourdes, but as a new convert/revert we couldn't understand this. Did Catholics have different Mary's that they venerate?

Good question. I'm sure there is a deeper theological explanation, but since I am not a theologian, I'm not going to even come close to tackling that. So I'll give the general answer:

Mary has appeared in many places throughout the world, some in approved apparitions, some thus far under investigation. Before an apparition or revelation to a "mystic" or "seer" is approved, the person in question must be deceased and the apparitions come to an end. So, for example, although the apparitions at Mejugorje are very popular and a souce of common devotion, they are not yet "approved" as they are ongoing, and the visionaries still living. They are not condemned by any means, but rather, simply under investigation, which will go on for as long as necessary.

As far as the other apparitions go, such as Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, and Our Lady of Guadalupe, these have been approved by the Church (to the best of my understanding).

Now, the "meat" of your question: At every appearance, Mary had a different message to convey, and she may have been dressed differently to clarify the association of her appearance with the specific message. People with a particular devotion to a particular apparition are devoted to Mary for there is only one Mary. However, they may choose a particular image because it's one they can identify with in some way, perhaps the message struck a particular chord, or perhaps, through her intercession, the individual associates the answer to a prayer to a certain appearance.

Mary also seemed to change her race at some of the appearances; for example, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared as an Aztec princess, her pregnancy with Jesus showing, and she appeared to an indio, Juan Diego. Her appearance in Mexico was needed for the conversion of the people, the miracle needed to help the people understand the love of Christ for them, the committment she had to them in her motherly love.

I have a special connection to Our Lady of Guadalupe as I have been to her Basilica twice, although when I pray before this particular image, asking for her intercession, I am not praying to an image: I am, very simply, praying to Mary in ALL her images for she is one and the same.

I would encourage anyone with further information and insights to post your knowledge and links for the benefit of those who share this same question.

For some general information about approved and unapproved appearances, check out this link.

God bless you!

Friday, January 26, 2007


I don't know what else to call this post, because that's what it's about. Isn't it a horrible word? I can't imagine anything more horrible; the violent taking of what should only be given in a sacred act, in union with God; the abuse not only upon the physical body, but the deeper, far more destructive consequences upon the soul of the victim. I would rather die than to suffer such an attack.

This week, I was speaking to a friend and somehow, this subject came up. I told her that several years ago I considered becoming a rape advocate, but I'm glad it didn't pan out because I don't think I could handle it.

I glanced at my friend, to find her staring at me with the most penetrating gaze I've ever experienced. When she had my full attention, she revealed to me in a voice so quiet it was almost a whisper, "I was raped."

She went on to reveal to me that she was "date raped" by a friend of a family, a young man with whom she had grown up; a trusted friend. She was 15, he was about 17, and he raped her.

She remembers calling her dad to come get her, and her silence in the car. He asked if everything was ok, she lied and told him that it was.

When she got home, she did what most rape victims do; she took a shower. She cleaned herself off, she scrubbed and scrubbed to get the feeling of filth, of HIM off of her. She wept, she cried, she sobbed...but she never told anyone.

She revealed to me that the feeling of "filth" haunted her for months, even years. She could never be clean after that, and the rape was never more present to her than when she was in the shower, for that is when she remembered it the most. It was in the act of trying to become clean that the memories of the attack were triggered with a strength she could not endure.

Finally, she told her best friend, and this was the most unkindest cut of all, for her best friend did not believe her.

She never told another soul after that; if her best friend, her peer, would not believe her, how could her family, who knew HIS family, and HIM ever believe her? So she remained silent in her agony, alone in her pain.

She is planning to be married, now, and did recently reveal this part of her soul to her fiance, and finally cried. And she revealed this to me although I'm not certain why...maybe something is telling her that it's time.

She has never sought counseling, or a support group, or an advocate. This woman has been walking alone with this terrible, terrible wound for over 10 years!

Please keep her in your prayers, that she find the grace and healing she so desperately needs.

We never know the pain suffered by people around us; we all have deep secrets that haunt us, some people more than others. Never pass up an opportunity to listen to a friend. Never pass up a chance to recognize a soul in need and send up a prayer...because YOU may be that very person needing that prayer someday, YOU may need that listening ear, and YOU may need to reach out and trust that someone will believe you when you tell your terrible secret.

Please, if you have been raped, please tell someone. Please share your pain with someone. Please don't walk alone in this for years upon years. Trust me, there IS someone who will believe you and who can help you.

Bloggers, Start Your Windows.....

...the nominations for the 2007 Blog Awards opens February 4!

H/T to Happy Catholic

Here are the categories:

Best Overall Catholic Blog
Best Designed Catholic Blog
Best Written Catholic Blog
Best New Catholic Blog
Best Individual Catholic Blog
Best Group Blog
Best Blog by Clergy/Religious/Seminarian
Funniest Catholic Blog
Smartest Catholic Blog
Most Informative & Insightful Catholic Blog
Best Apologetic Blog
Best Political/Social Commentary Catholic Blog
Best Insider News Catholic Blog
Most Spiritual Blog

Check out Cyber Catholics for more info!

* singsong * I know some bloggers who are getting nom-in-ations! (But I'll never teeellll!)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Flying by the seat of my pants and the flames of the Holy Spirit

I gave my talk tonight on Catholic Customs and Sacramentals...and learned when I got there that I DID have to discuss "Our Identity as Prophets" as well. That was right when class started. And since I wasn't the prayer reader, I asked the Holy Spirit what I should say? I was ready for the other stuff, had my props, and even recieved a third class relic in the mail today from a dear friend!

So I wrote down the thoughts that came to me, and went up in front of the class with my notes, all the sacramentals I'd brought already laid out.

I told them that I had only a few thoughts on the topic of our identity as prophets, calling upon the Bible to give us a snapshot of what a prophet is:

* The prophets spoke with the authority of God to warn of their current status of having fallen away from God, calling them to repentence and back to God. They listed the consequences of not following God's laws...and when the people did not listen, God responded just as he had warned.

* The prophet does not act on his own; he acts as God directs, is an instrument of God.

* There are prophets among us, such as Fulton Sheen. I described how he had this amazing ability to completely size up the culture, what they were facing...and his words are still so relevant TODAY!

* We are also called to stand firmly grounded in our faith, and size up the world and where it is taking us; is it taking us away from God or toward it? If we are talking about God and how to live, and we immediately go out and do the opposite, then we are not prophets. Prophets had to stand against the culture, just as we are called to do, and thus lead by example.

Every night before I have to speak, I go to the Adoration Chapel to offer my efforts, asking that God be glorified through my weakness. Even though I had prepared for tonight, the topic was huge and admittedly, organization is not my forte'. And even with my notes in front of me, I skipped around during my talk, having offered it to God; knowing that even with what I knew, I was not up to the task.

I don't actually feel like I did a very good job tonight, but at the same time, I also let the "conversation" be lead by the Holy Spirit, and most of the information was covered. We ended right on time. I provided some resources to everyone so that they could go online and look up the information they wanted to know more about.

Primarily, I recommend the following sites for people seeking to know more about our Catholic culture and devotions:

and with reservations:

This last one is a great site, however, the owner is an ultra-trad Cath. They do not recognize the Novus Ordo as being valid, nor do they recognize Vatican II. I did caution the class about that and gave some info on the SSPX, then told them which link to click for the best info. Fisheaters has a great section on Catholic devotions with really incredible articles, explanations, etc., and I did use this for many of my explanations and research. They are linked to my favorites, but to anyone who goes to this site; the section for those converting to the faith are going to meet the vitriol of the mislead in schism.

There are so many great websites out there, so many resources! So thank God these poor people didn't have to rely completely on my explanations for anything!

UPDATE:  May 26, 2010.

Every so often randon anon commenters flame me and accuse me of all sorts of really fun sins such as calumny and detraction because of my criticism of  I stand by what I said; after all, Catholic also has reservations for the same reasons and more. Click here for their most recent review of the site.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Every so often I pick up St. John of the Cross and read "Dark Night of the Soul", just a few paragraphs at a time. I have not yet tackled the entire book. I have Father Dubay's "The Fire Within", but haven't finished it, and here and there I come across St. Therese of Avila and references to her work. Throughout many of the writings of the saints are descriptions of "abandonment", and it gives me pause; I have to wonder what it means. The thought terrifies me. It's not that I recieve so many consolations from God, but the very thought of spiritual abandonment simply makes me quake. In reading the Saints, I realize that whether I recognize them or not, the fact that I experience consolations really means I'm just an infant in the spiritual life; and I have to admit that the thought of holiness to the degree experienced by these Saints doesn't sound like something I want to pursue.

It's not that I don't want to be holy; rather, I'm terrified of the sacrifice required in order to be like Jesus, in order to walk in the shadow of His cross, and of the rigorous training course established by God to purify our souls to such a degree.

More often than not, I read about consolations, affirmations, the comforting presence of God, knowing that He is there, recognizing His will in so many things. I read about ecstacies experienced by the Saints, their experience of God, and certainly it would be awesome indeed to attain this level of sanctity, but it does not come without a price.

And even then, after they come...there is ABANDONMENT. The sensation of abandonment; God withdraws all consolations. Such utter spiritual dryness and seeming desolation that the one affected must carry on simply as an act of the will; it is a desert, a purification. And yet, in spite of this seeming desolation, God is even closer to that particular soul; it is a special sort of suffering, beyond true description.

And it terrifies me.

This morning as I walked my dogs in the utter darkness of the early morning, shivering in the cold, dreading my workday, I considered the concept of abandonment and thanked God that I am not anywhere near that point in my spiritual life.

And then it came to me; while I have not experienced what the Saints describe, I have experienced something that gave me at least a little perspective.

My Dad passed in early January 1995, and it took me MONTHS to really grieve. I didn't know what to do, what to say, how to act, so instead, I was just angry. And sad. And desolate. All those things, and more, and yet I lived my day to day life, losing my faith along with the rest of the world.

Even though my parents had been divorced for many many years, for some reason I dreaded Christmas with a strange sense of horror. We wouldn't talk to Dad. We couldn't buy Dad gifts. Nothing was coming from Dad. It was Christmas...without Dad.

I couldn't bear to be around my family, for his absence was even more absent, and because I hadn't seen him at all since my high school graduation, about 3 1/2 years prior, my guilt just ate away at me.

I had graduated early and was working for the college that winter, so I made sure I was on the Christmas schedule. Prior to Christmas I had gone home, celebrated "Christmas", stayed overnight and then headed back to the school. It wasn't that I really wanted to be alone...I just didn't want to be around family. It was odd.

But I DID want to be alone because when I was with them, I felt even more alone; Dad's loss was that much more painful, and I couldn't handle it.

It was so painful it was like a burn; it left my nerves deadened; I was numb. It was a grief so deep I could not express it to anyone, not even to myself. So I fled civilization for the haven of the school from which I had graduated and I enclosed myself into the darkness of my grief, trying to understand.

And I've never felt so incredibly alone in my entire life.

On that Christmas Eve, I couldn't even stand the very room I was in. No one was at the college; no one was anywhere. The dorms were abandoned, the bluffs were silent.

And it was into the bluffs I fled, under the Christmas Eve stars, into the shadows of the trees and the confinement of the snowy creek banks.

I just walked, alone in that darkness, tramping through the snow, wishing I could cry, wanting to scream, wanting only relief from this terrible, terrible pain. I wondered if I was depressed? I considered that seriously, but no...I knew what depression was, I had all the symptoms indexed in my mind for professionally I had worked with truly depressed people. No; I was far too functional to be depressed. Dysthymia? Nope...not that either.

Intellectually, I knew that this was grief, I knew I was not handling it well, and whenever I confronted myself with that reality I shoved it aside in favor of wallowing within the pain, wanting to understand it, needing to purge myself of it, but not wanting to go to anyone else for help to do it. I was far too independent for my own good.

But I didn't care; I just wanted to be alone. Alone with God, seeking my faith again, seeking the God I had grown up knowing. And yet I didn't know him.

So that night as I walked, I spoke to God. I berated him for this pain, I berated him for taking my Dad away from me, and I cried out to him about my own guilt.

I remember sitting at the side of the creek, suddenly realizing that I felt completely alone; completely abandoned.


In the middle of the cold winter wildnerness, surrounded by the frozen forest, unable to even hear the waters gurgling under the ice and snow.

I was numb; I was abandoned. I cried out to God, but He did not answer me, nothing was revealed. Nothing was changed, nothing purged, nothing healed.

I realized that I had gone out to seek God because the futility of my own actions had so far gotten me nowhwere. And yet I was still rejecting the Church which had always been my solace before. Even as I sought God, I was running away from him.

I remember that terrible, terrible numbness; not just from physical cold, but this strange spiritual numbness; Abandonment.

I remember a couple of tears fell...and froze on my cheeks. Frozen just as I was inside.

Slowly, I stepped out on the ice, knowing where the little waterfall was. I knew I was being stupid for there was no one to hear my screams. I was not suicidal; far from it! Yet I almost hoped I would fall through a weak spot in the ice, to be partially submerged; water ran under that ice all winter. Even the harsh Minnesota winters would not completely freeze that rushing stream.

I didn't want to die; I only wanted to shock myself into feeling something again. Anything other than this terrible interior pain. Anything other than this hopeless feeling of complete and utter desolation;


But the ice didn't crack; even it was silent, refusing to give me the relief I so desperately craved.

I walked back to my room, to the warmth, still numb, still alone within my pain, still bereft of God.

A small miracle...I tried to go to Mass the next day, and oddly, couldn't find one! I must have gone at the wrong time, and there was no one to call to answer my questions as to WHEN!

So even when I finally went to find God, the door was closed and locked, sealing my abandonment.

I was in a ghost town, literally knocking on the door; and no one answered.

I can't remember how I got through that terrible phase in my life. Probably just fell into the routine of work, but I do know that the terrible sensation did finally ease. I do know that over time, the grief ebbed, leaving mostly only the anger...and finally, acceptance.

Grief is still painful and sometimes catches me by surprise with its razor-sharp edges, yet never since that Christmas Eve have I ever felt that terrible abandonment.

In looking back, now I see a blessing; a spiritual purging I did not understand. I chose the separation, and now now I look back and realize that it could be a shadow of what is to come. God was right there with me the entire time, likely crying the tears I could not, likely closer to me than He ever has been before or since.

For it is in our abandonment, the Saints have learned in their wisdom, that God is closer than ever, and we can't find Him or see Him because he is holding us so closely we are blinded by his love and compassion. Even in snowy, frozen bluffs of a cold Minnesota Christmas, God is there, and sometimes, when it seems like He isn't answering, it is because he is speaking so softly that it takes years to understand his words.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Catholic Customs and Sacramentals - A Call for Questions!

I realize this is a very dangerous post, but I'm going to do it anyway.

I would like some "audience participation", especially that of Catholic Converts.

Next Wednesday, I am providing the catechesis on Catholic Customs and Sacramentals.

I will be covering some obvious things: the Rosary, the Scapular, Statues, Icons, Holy Cards, blessed objects, etc. What, specifically, do people want to know about these things and any of our common customs?

But I need to hear from people who have sat through RCIA, who may not be Catholic but have specific questions about our customs and observations, or even Catholics who suddenly realized that they have NO IDEA why we do certain things.

PLEASE post your questions or, if you feel more comfortable, e-mail them to me.

Please also, if you have a blog, link this post so that those who have questions that fall into these categories may have an opportunity to find the explanation they need.

I promise, to the best of my ability, to answer all questions consistently with official Catholic teaching.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Body of Christ and the Gifts we are Given

The second reading for this upcoming Sunday is from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians. You may find all of the readings on the USCCB website.

3 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
5 there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
6 there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. 7 To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit;
9 to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit
10 to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes. 12 As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.
13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
14 Now the body is not a single part, but many.

The reading is much longer, but this is the part which summarizes my post for tonight. The reading is about the Church as the Body of Christ; we all have a role to fulfill and gifts to be used in order to fulfill that divine call.

Tonight, I spoke to the RCIA class about these readings, and encouraged them to discern which gifts they are called to share. I also pointed out that God rewards small efforts, and has a way of drawing us in to offering something more. He even has a way of doing this such that we don't necessarily recognize how far we are following His call.

As an example, I briefly shared my experience in High School, for at that time, I was called to Music Ministry. This started out very simply; it was just playing my flute at a couple of Christmas programs. A few years later, as I got better, I was asked to play with the Adult Choir on occasion. Then a youth choir formed, and I both sang and played my flute there. As there were not many young people involved in my parish, the youth choir fizzled out, so I ended up joining the Adult Choir.

At first, I was there mainly as musical support, but I sang, too, learned the music, and eventually, I became a full-fledged member of the choir. But also, because I was a musician and had become fairly accomplished, I was asked to assist the cantors, both with my flute and my voice.

For myself, I enjoyed the involvement, the feeling of being needed in some way, and the fact that the ministry I was engaged in really made this parish my family.

And still, God drew me ever deeper. One Christmas morning, I was scheduled to play my flute at the 8:30 am Mass, and to sing with the Cantor. At one point, the Cantor, who was also the Music Director, thrust the songbook into my hands, ordered me to "Sing this!" and she left to go assist another ministry that needed some immediate assistance.

I was left standing in front of the mike, in front of the huge Christmas crowd, having never sung solo by myself. But I did my best and since it was a song everyone knew, (What Child is This) I don't think they heard my bad note!

After that, they began putting me on the Cantor schedule, first as a sub, then as a regular Cantor. I began singing almost every weekend, and if a soloist was needed with the choir on special occasions, I was often the person asked to solo.

My life was music, and I had aspirations of becoming a professional flautist, maybe even a singer.

Tonight, when I spoke to the class, I spoke of the blessings of becoming involved, of God's gracious benevolence, how He draws us in and rewards our efforts. I spoke of how the parish really became my family, and at that time in my life, while I didn't realize it then, I really needed that parish family. So through our community, the Body of Christ, the Lord gives us what we need. Had I not taken those small initial steps, God would not have been able to give me the wonderful graces He provided during those years.

But I did not share with them the "dark side" of this experience. Father happened to be at RCIA tonight because he was the catechist, and when he began, he told the class that I had just revealed something to him that he did not previously know...that I can sing! And our parish needs Cantors! I told him (and the class) that I don't sing anymore.

Father replied, "We'll talk later."

He did approach me later, and I told him that I don't sing anymore.

He asked, "Don't...or can't?"

I didn't look him in the eye when I replied, only said, "...Maybe a little of both." I told him I'd answer his question later.

Thank God "later" didn't come tonight, although at some point he may ask again.

This issue tears at me, because there IS a reason I don't sing anymore. Maybe I need spiritual direction to sort through it, or maybe God is going to ask me to do this again.

Certainly I do not have the voice I once had, but I think, with training, it would come back. I used to have an amazing range, and I know I can "project". I still remember how to use the diaphragm...that's something I learned from playing the flute, piccolo, and trumpet. So maybe what I consider lacking in my voice can be resurrected for God's glory.

And that's where the spiritual issue comes in; Pride.

Yup. The Bane of my existance, the weight of my spiritual life, the obstacle that (in part) holds me back from holiness.

When I first began to play my flute, I was encouraged to play in front of others, and this was necessary; after all, it's a performance art! I've always been able to sing, but I was a shy child and only sang in front of my parents, otherwise, in classes, I would barely open my mouth. I don't know why, but singing was always hard for me. But the flute was different, because all I was doing was providing the air...the instrument provided the sound. And because I was reading music, I could focus on that and not the audience.

In short, for a shy child, playing a musical instrument is GREAT therapy.

But there is such a thing as going too far.

My entrance into church music ministry came on Christmas, when I played a solo of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen". This was a song that was allowed prior to the advent of complete secularization and "PC" anti-Christian lawsuits, so it was music I learned in my public elementary school. My first experience was actually very humbling...I wasn't nervous until I saw how full the church was that evening, and then as I raised my flute to play, I was it with the most acute stage fright that sucked the wind right out of my lungs! I began shaking and sweating, somehow made it through the song...but my church didn't give up on me.

They asked me back the following year. I learned that what I had to do was focus on this as a "performance" and be a "professional". But in their encouragement of me, inadvertently, people were feeding my pride. Initially, that was a good thing; I really needed a legitimate boost to my self-esteem, and I did practice very hard. I wanted to be good, and as my Mom didn't have money for private lessons, I had to work hard on my own and absorb what I was taught by my teachers.

Over time, my attitude of "performance" also leaked into singing, and as I learned that I actually had a voice, and that people liked it, again my pride was being fed. I overcame my shyness by thinking of "professionalism in performance", and so even though I was singing, in theory, to serve God, I saw each Mass as a "performance".

It was all about me and what I could it playing my flute, or singing with the choir, or soloing, or cantoring.

Sometimes I realized I was serving the Church, and considered that Jesus was present, but really I didn't understand the "Real Presence", that Jesus really WAS present.

I am actually very ashamed now when I think back to those very prideful years.

My pride does not take away from the fact that I did provide a service to the parish, and there is some humility there also when I realize maybe WHY I was there, for certainly, I was called.

So another small point; we are all called to share our gifts...but that does not mean we need to be morally bankrupt to do so. Our gifts should be offered in a spirit of service; not a spirit of "look what I can do!"

Some of this can be attributed to my youth, to maybe overcompensating for my very real shyness. Maybe some solid, gentle teachings of the virtues during that time would have taken the edge off of Pride.

But I have to face it now; I was a monster.

No, I wasn't a "Diva", but I KNEW I was good, and that made me feel somewhat powerful. And since I was the youngest member of the choir, this just fed into the entire thing. My Pride was all internal; I don't know that anyone else realized how I truly felt. I'm quite certain that if they did, someone would have guided my head out of the clouds in a hurry.

But there's more to the story, for God works in mysterious ways.

Throughout those years, Jr. High through High School, my family life was extremely chaotic. We were on welfare, Mom was suffering from her Bipolar illness in extreme ways, and I went to bed in tears nearly every night. Not only did my involvement with the choir and music get me out of that terrible house, but it provided me a safe haven, other wonderful people, a few of whom had an inkling and learned more of our situation over the years.

No one ever treated me like a "charity case", although they did provide a gift of payment for flute lessons. They knew Mom couldn't afford it and they wanted to help. They were welcoming, they were sincere, and...well...they were family.

Thank God for them.

At the end of Jr. High, I nearly committed suicide. In October 2006 I wrote about this. I realize now that, keeping in mind that Jesus was present in the Tabernacle, He called me not only because he wanted me to share the gift I was given, but also to keep me close to Him. I was always at the Church. Whether I recognized him or not, Jesus was RIGHT THERE!

And each night, ironically, I would go home and beg for Jesus to answer my prayers, all the while He was dousing me with the grace of His very presence!

So in the darkest years of my life, Jesus was there, and I did not seek Him was He who called me to Him, my Pride and all.

So why won't I sing now?

Because I have come to recognize Jesus, and have not really "felt" called to Music Ministry at this time. I have told the Lord that if He calls, I will answer, but I will not seek this ministry out...I need a solid invitation. I need to be almost ORDERED to sing again. Because of my Pride.

Right now, when I go to Mass, I love just absorbing it, not worrying about my next song, not worrying about doing the right thing at the right time...because if I stand a little early or late, the motion is absorbed. No one cares. And thus I can focus on what is happening, and focus on "praying" the Mass. I'm still not perfect at this, suffer from amazing distractions, but since I don't have to lead singing, I can try to overcome these temptations. And believe me...people need people around them who can sing.

Yet, tonight, I revealed a talent I used to have, and I know our parish has a need. So I feel guilty at remaining silent on this issue for so long, but what of my Pride? That monster is still around, and I fear that if I become a singer again, that I will too easily slip into that old role and turn what should be worship into a "performance".

I have not told Father all of this, if it comes up, he'll get the abridged version. But for now, I, like Mary, am "pondering this in my heart", and waiting for God to let me know what I should do.

I'm not sure this is something I can discern alone, because it involves the community. What one member of the Body of Christ does or does not do affects us all, so I have to ask: Was Father's comment and inquiry tonight a true call or is God asking me to consider taking that step again? This time as an adult with more understanding, with more knowledge...and with a lesser ability than before. For now, there is some humility to ground me as I will never be "the best" again.

And there is Pride again...because a part of me still wants to be "the best".

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sacramental Humor

The Catholic Church defines Sacramentals as sacred signs instituted by the Church.

Holy Cards, Rosaries, Images, Statues, among other things, are considered to be "sacramentals", for they are tangible things that lead us into a more intimate union with Jesus Christ. For example, when a priest blesses a holy card or a religious image, he prays that anyone who looks up that image be blessed, be touched by God's grace in some way. For it is the job of that image to remind us to pray, or if the image is of a Saint, then we look to the person portrayed as an example in how to lead a holy life.

Yet we must be careful not to cross from "veneraton" into Superstition. With a capital "S".

I found a perfect example of this in "Through the Year with Padre Pio", which is a collection of anecdotes, letters, and quotes from Padre Pio taken from several sources, compiled by Patricia Treece.

...Padre Pio was known for enjoying a hearty laugh, for pranks and witticisms. Besides his true spiritual children, there were "followers" of Padre Pio who let superstition creep into devotion to him. While he found this annoying and sometimes even got angry when it went too far, in general he maintained a healthy, humorous perspective.

An example: Some of these devotees would call out as he passed, "Padre Pio, my mother had cancer, and I put your picture on her chest and it disappeared." "Padre Pio, my child was very sick, and I put your picture on him, and he got immediately well." Padre Pio heard so much of the efficacy of his picture and was pretty tired of what he considered rank superstition.

One night, praying alone very late in the choir of the church, he heard footsteps back and forth in the silence of the night. Eventually this disturbed his prayer. He got up and looked out the window. He saw a sinister-looking figure in a cape with something in his hand that might [have been] a grenade or bomb.

This was a time of great political unrest, and Padre Allesio Parente later recalled Pio's telling the other friars, "At first I was so scared he would throw the bomb at me. But then I said to myself, 'Oh, don't worry; I think I've got a picture of Padre Pio somewhere."

~ Kathleen Stauffer, "They Knew Padre Pio," Catholic Digest, December 1991 and The Voice of Padre Pio, Vol. 20, No. 4, 1990, 7. (p. 27, Through the Year with Padre Pio)

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Sign of the Cross

A week from Wednesday I'll be giving a talk to the RCIA class on Catholic customs, sacramentals, etc., and I plan to discuss where the Sign of the Cross (whichwe all make as an automatic gesture) comes from.

My talk will likely focus on the historical, but we all need to understand and CONVEY the true meaning to others as a witness to our Faith. This is the best explanation I have ever read:

from "Sacred Signs" by Romano Guardini, C 1956via the EWTN online Library

WHEN we cross ourselves, let it be with a real sign of the cross.Instead of a small cramped gesture that gives no notion of itsmeaning, let us make a large unhurried sign, from forehead tobreast, from shoulder to shoulder, consciously feeling how itincludes the whole of us, our thoughts, our attitudes, our bodyand soul, every part of us at once. how it consecrates and sanctifies us.

It does so because it is the Sign of the universe and the sign ofour redemption. On the cross Christ redeemed mankind. By the cross he sanctifies man to the last shred and fibre of his being. We make the sign of the cross before we pray to collect andcompose ourselves and to fix our minds and hearts and wills upon God. We make it when we finish praying in order that we may holdfast the gift we have received from God. In temptations we sign ourselves to be strengthened; in dangers, to be protected. The cross is signed upon us in blessings in order that the fulness of God's life may flow into the soul and fructify and sanctify us wholly.

Think of these things when you make the sign of the cross. It is the holiest of all signs. Make a large cross, taking time,thinking what you do. Let it take in your whole being,--body,soul, mind, will, thoughts, feelings, your doing and not-doing,--and by signing it with the cross strengthen and consecrate the whole in the strength of Christ, in the name of the triune God.

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Te Deum Laudamus!
via Mulier-Fortis via Father Longnecker

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Asking for Help

Another Day of Catholic Pondering brings up an issue which I think is common to many of us; that of asking for help.

I have to admit, I can relate. Maybe it's from my upbringing; I grew up in a very chaotic dysfunctional home, and admitting our very real poverty, admitting what was happening in the home, seemed like weakness to me. And so I learned to pretend that everything was OK, and that nothing was wrong.

And when I left home three times my senior year and lived with other people, I saw it as a simple survival need; but I never asked for help. Because I had learned long ago that no one could help us.

And so as an adult, I still struggle with this, and now I realize that this problems stems from Pride; I have a very bad pride habit.

This problem was brought to my attention once again this last weekend. On Friday when my car died, I did ask for my coworker to come over, but I really wasn't sure why; my car was dead. It wasn't like he was going to fix it. But I was hoping that by the time he arrived, my car would get some sense and start like it had all day.

Nope, it remained dead. So I told my coworker that I would just get a cab home. He offered to give me a ride, and guiltily, I accepted. He was great...brought me to the shop up the road, drove me home. But I didn't ask him...I only accepted his offer and felt guilty the entire time!

What was THAT about? He had to go by my city anyway, so it wasn't hugely out of his way, and I would have made the same offer to a stranded friend.

Notice that my first instinct was to call a cab, absorb all the impact of this terrible inconvenience, rather than admit to someone that I needed a ride. I'd almost preferred to pay someone rathar than ask someone I knew for help.

That evening I figured I'd get a rental the next day to drive myself to the shop...going back again to this "independence" I thought I had to have.

But I did call my neighbor and asked her if she was available to give me a ride, or, if my car wasn't done, to lend me her car to run errands. She was happy to help, and yet, I still felt guilty, and still have this sense of shame; I feel completely shamed when I have to admit I am vulnerable in some way.

I know that I've done nothing shameful. My car died. That was it. It happens to EVERYONE, and I did nothing to cause it. And yet I have this sense that if I ask for help, I'm putting someone else out somehow, imposing myself upon them, and in a way, it's almost physically painful.

I can ask people to answer questions, and online, I can ask people for prayers. But do you know that in person, I have extreme difficulty in asking for prayers, and if I do so, it nearly brings me to tears. Yet when someone asks me for prayers, I'm overjoyed!

There's something off balance here, and I don't think I'm the only one.

We are all members of the mystical Body of Christ; this means we have to both be willing to help each other, and be willing to admit our failings, our vulnerabilities, and our needs, so that others may be able to extend help to us when we need it.

We all need to ask for help sometimes, and we all need to be that person to extend the help. Sometimes, we just have to learn to overcome our sense of pride and be willing to go to those we love and admit we aren't as strong as we wish we could be.

We have to depend upon God; and since God uses others to provide for us, we have to learn likewise to not just go to prayer, but to other PEOPLE when we come face to face with our own limitations.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall...

22 And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, "Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon."

23 But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, "Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us."

24 He said in reply, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

25 But the woman came and did him homage, saying, "Lord, help me."

26 He said in reply, "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs."

27 She said, "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters."

28 Then Jesus said to her in reply, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish."

I have often been puzzled about this verse. Why did Jesus call this poor woman a dog? His behavior simply doesn't seem to mesh with what we know about Jesus; why is he rebuking this pleading woman who is only seeking mercy for her beloved daughter?

Recently I recieved some insight into this when listening to a CD from a Bible Conference I attended last summer. And I have come to realize that Jesus has been calling me a dog for a very long time.

If we really LOOK at that verse, we see that this Caananite woman has come to Jesus, in faith and trust, begging for help for her daughter. Jesus calls her a dog! Yet she remains. Why does she remain?

Because this is not really a rebuke. Jesus is testing her; he is explaining his mission, that to the House of Israel, but notice he has not told her to go away! She seems to understand this, although his words must have punctured her heart and soul with a thousand arrows. Yet she remained, pleading on her knees, refusing to take "no" for an answer. Rather than running away, she followed and did him homage.

And what was Jesus's response? Read it again:

28 Then Jesus said to her in reply, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish."

He's THRILLED! Jesus has seemed to reject her, but she persists, continuing to believe in spite of such a seeming insult. And as Jesus was wont to do, he was really inviting her to go deeper, to persevere in her faith; He did not want her to leave, only to understand FOR HER OWN VERY SOUL what she was asking him to do and what she BELIEVED he could do. Jesus knew he could heal her daughter and free her from the demons. But the woman must have been lacking in something to be tested in such a way. And she let her love for her daughter and the faith obtained through grace overcome what may have been her shame at being rejected.

Because she had faith, she grasped it with the tenacity of a dog, and she would not let Jesus turn her down.

And by Jesus' word, it was done.

I've been grasping this Gospel lately, myself, realizing that I'm just a dog begging for scraps from the Master's table.

I'm at the end of my rope at work. On Thursday, I nearly gave immediate notice and walked out; the only thing that saved me, ironically, was my dogs and the mortgage. I can't go around letting my frustration write resignation letters I can't afford to write. And so I remained. And still I remain, still begging the Lord for Mercy, for direction, for new and fruitful employment.

I know that my gifts are not a match for my current job and I know that I have no future with this company. Nor do I want a future here. And we know there is a systematic problem when the other THREE team members ALSO are desperate to walk off the job.

Because it comes down to the fact that our Manager is not hearing us, and Management in general in this company isn't hearing us nor do they want to; they are too focused on "the bottom line". They are too focused on "profit", and whenever someone complains about workload, the pressure, the stress, they offer trite platitudes about the end of the year profit-sharing and the money to be made by each individual.

I'm starting to wonder if they are Communists parading as Capitalists. And neither, in their pure form, is good.

I don't care if they were to offer me $10,000 more annually...I can't keep this up. I can't continue to go to work with my stomach in knots, my heart in my throat, and my pulses racing. I can't continue to take the whips and stings of a workload that becomes more and more burdensome, or a double standard that forces my unit to take excess work from other less specialized units, while they refuse to help us when we're so far overloaded. They use "numbers" to measure "productivity", and forget that the numbers aren't accurate for there's a lot of work yet to be done on issues that have been closed out. Nothing is really closed, and I have hours of work to do on a number they can't even see in their paltry system.

Not to mention the hours of work that comes without credit from our outstate counterparts who consistently get less measurable work, have stellar performance, make more money...we do their work and we don't get the credit for it. It doesn't measure into our "numbers" in our Metro office.

I can't continue to work for a company that has forgotten that without their employees, there is no company.

And yet, I can't find another job. I can't even figure out what I want to do, but for those careers for which I am not qualified because further education is required. (Which I am seeking, as you know).

All I'm really begging for is scraps from the Master's table; I'm not looking to get rich, I'm not looking for prestige, definitely not management, only to be able to pay those bills I have to pay to keep a roof over my head and the internet connection working! I'm asking for a job that I can go to in peace; not expecting perfection for we will not find Eden here, but there is more to life than the stress caused by bad employment. No matter how much we are paid. And although the money is decent, it's not enough for what it takes out of us.

When out legitimate complaints are deflected, downplayed, or outright rejected by Management, then it's time to abandon ship. Will someone please send a lifeboat? Mass exodus from the Titanic that is my company is in need of lifeboats and personal floatation devices. I'm not the only one.

So I am saying a prayer each day, now, from the depths of my soul, begging for mercy, reminding the Lord that I may be only a dog, but even dogs receive the scraps from the Master's table.

And I am praying that if I persevere with faith in the face of the silent rebuke which has so far met my tearful pleas, maybe Jesus will FINALLY say,

"O Woman, great is thy faith! Let it be done for you as you wish."

Should the Lord answer this prayer, you will all be the first to know. For I am now doing what the woman in scripture did...I am approaching Jesus publicly in the face of his rebuke, (2 1/2 year's worth) accepting the title of "dog", and I will follow him to the ends of the earth in order to obtain the answer to this prayer...and I will not take "No" for an answer.

Help me, Lord. I am only begging for some scraps.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Reliance upon ourselves

Well, I gave my talk tonight on the Wedding at Cana...and it didn't exactly go as planned.

I was very nervous, as I always am before speaking in front of a group. One of the sponsors is a teacher by profession, and I asked her if the nerves every go away? She said no, they don't, and suggest I picture everyone as second graders! Well, I was too nervous to envision ANYTHING!

My talk consisted of an outline with a lot of detail, and even some notes in the margin for scripture references. I had prayed the rosary this morning, and by memory, did a Scriptural decade with the verses from this Gospel. Afterwards, I practiced my talk, by memory alone, and the connections were so CLEAR! I even thought of others! So I finalized my outline and notes, read it over, remembered the connections, and geared up for my 15 minutes of dubious fame.

I always go to Adoration prior to teaching, partially to calm my nerves, but for certain to offer my efforts and any results to Jesus. After all, I there to talk about HIM and His bride, the Church.

As I prayed, I realized that I was overwhelmed by the amount of information I had, having not just used the talk I attended last summer, but also research in a Bible commentary. My mind is grasping the information well, but I was also pressed for time; this topic is WAY too huge for a 15 minute talk! I had been realizing this, but my enthusiasm for the topic overshadowed my good sense. So I prayed to Jesus to help me know what to say.

He asked me in the silent recesses of my soul, "Why didn't you ask me that weeks ago?"

And he was right. It was then that I realized that although I had worked on this while in Adoration, I had paid little attention to what Jesus might have wanted to teach me, and instead I had my nose in a book, looking up Bible verses, making connections - like a big Biblical jigsaw puzzle. It's like introducing someone without bothering to ask that person what they want the people to know about him, the guest of honor.

So I guess I saw in myself today that gift I have for analytical insight; and the fact that although I understand it well, I don't know how to simplify it or even focus on one theme. I relied on myself and my knowledge; I should have been relying on God to take what I already knew and understood to present a very simple talk.

This is my first year teaching, and it has been a wonderful experience, and tonight was yet another lesson on what not to do. These lessons can be expected, and my guess is that if I compared notes with other teachers of any subject, be it religious or secular, they would all say that at some point, they had done the same thing.

God's grace is a wonderful thing, so even though my talk kind of tanked tonight, He will still likely use whatever I said to touch someone somehow with some understanding of the Mystery of Jesus Christ, of Mary as the intercessor.

And so, tonight I myself learned once again that it's important to sit at the feet of Jesus and pay attention to Him, rather than relying on information I don't have enough theological training or teaching experience to adequately convey.

I have the Scripture readings next week, too. So it seems that I will go back to my original plan: to go to Jesus and ask in all humility, "Lord, what do you want me to say about you?"

Monday, January 08, 2007

Things I wonder about priests....

This last Sunday, one of the priests at our parish announced that he just recieved notice that he is being moved to another parish. He is a wonderful priest and we will miss him greatly. While I'd gone to him for Confession from time to time, I didn't really get to know him until he took over a particular gathering for the young adults in our area, and found him to be a great ally and supporter. When I began teaching RCIA he took some time to talk to me and provide some direction. And when I taught my first class, which was the impossible topic of "Catholic Social Doctrine", he stopped in just as my talk ended to see how things had gone. And actually, he gave me some encouragement before that class and answered some of my last-minute questions which could not be found in any book. (Or none that I had).

I've come to know him also as a joker and we, the parishioners, often enjoyed the good-natured verbal sparring which took place between him and another of our priests. This, also, will be missed.

I have found that not only does the parish community make the parish feel like "home", but also knowing the priests not just on Sundays, but in other times as well, and recognize in them the people that they are.

We live in a strange culture in which priests on one hand are still very much respected; and on the other hand, they are regarded with complete suspicion and even outright rejection. Father Corapi has discussed the rejection part; God forbid that a priest reach out to hug a child, or be alone with a woman, for fear of accusations. In the past, priests were recognized as "Men of God" and treated with a certain esteem that is lacking in our society. Our culture values money and hedonism over sacrifice; relativism over religion, and the pursuit of money over the pursuit of holiness.

I think it's a miracle when a man becomes a priest in today's world.

Our parish is very large, and has been blessed with several wonderful priests, each with a specific set of gifts, each a true Father. And now we are losing one to a parish that, in all liklihood, desperately needs him.

So this has caused me to ask some questions and ponder some realities of the life of a priest.

First of all, given the current situation, there has been an outpouring of gratification to Father as he is leaving; even witnessing the expression of someone's gratitude brings tears to MY eys! I have no idea how hard it must be for Father to stand up there and not get teary-eyed himself!

Secondly, I am aware that one of the reasons priests are moved after a particular period of time (in our archdiocese it's around 12 years) - it is to prevent a certain "culture" from developing, a "cult of priest", etc. Priests do have to guard, to a certain degree, from becoming too attached, but I have to wonder how do they NOT become attached?

I'll admit that certain customers have really touched me in some ways, and my dealings with them are not nearly as intimate as a priest and parishioner. After all, it is the priest, by the authority of Jesus himself, who brings us His body and blood, who gives us absolution, who knows our secrets, gives us counsel, etc. These are powerful things, and I would think a priest would have to be inhuman not to be moved by the people he shepherds. And of course, this isn't a "job", it's a VOCATION; a specific calling.

Do priests see their parishes as family? Do certain people stand out to them, as they often do to us? Are priests today welcomed into families and do they maintain contact with some people even after they are moved to a different parish?

As much as I'll miss the priest who is leaving our parish, I won't be going out of my way to contact him becaues I recognize that he is moving on and has to give his attentions to a new parish family. Yet, does it mean something to the priest to be visited on occasion, or be contacted by previous parishioners? It is encouraging? Should we make an effort to stay in contact with some of our priests who have gone on to other pastures?

One of the things that I want to do, as a Catholic woman, is to encourage vocations, and part of that, I think, is to encourage our existing priests and recognize them for what they do every day. My life is better for the priests I have known, and were it not for them and their leadership, I'd still be limping along, begging God not to give up on me. (Well, I guess I'm STILL doing that...)

Human beings are designed to form attachments, so breaking those legitimate attachments is always difficult. I would imagine that a priest, during his service at any given parish, tends to form some strong bonds. Is it hard to leave? How do they handle it?

Clearly I look at this from the persepctive of a woman, and women tend to be more emotionally driven, so perhaps my questions just seem odd. But I can't help feeling like I'm losing a member of my family, in a really big, really Catholic, really huge parish family.

So maybe it comes to this; do priests really get attached to their parishes in even a few years, or do they detach enough so that their moving isn't so difficult?

The Mercy and Grace of Jesus Christ

I am constantly amazed by Jesus' abundant and overwhelming mercy. Tonight I had to go to Confession, and as usual, when I HAVE to go, I get butterflies in the pit of my stomach. I couldn't eat my dinner, and I couldn't focus. As I let my dogs out before I left, I considered not going, really dreading the event. Initially not intending to go to Mass, I fled my house, having to cut through the spiritual oppression.

The song on the radio as I left my house was all about God's mercy. I embraced that, knowing that this was what I was seeking; mercy.

I arrived at Mass and gratefully listened to that part of the Gospel I had not missed, and knelt in wonder during the Eucharistic prayers, tortured at not being able to recieve Jesus. Yet I realized it was part of my penance; to bow in humility and refrain from that which I love most, that is complete unity with our Lord. And yet the message I heard over and over was "Mercy". Throughout the Mass, a litany of Mercy.

So after Mass I got into line, barely even able to pray, berating myself for getting worked up. But I am always fearful; how much is he going to ask me to clarify (he never does, apparently I'm specific enough and brief enough), and that little irrational thought that he's going to yell at me still creeps in. I was beginning to shake and begged the Lord to help me, once again, to come to him with my sins and heal me of the damage they had caused myself and others.

Finally it was my turn and I walked in, knelt down, and made my confession, quickly and briefly.

Silently I bowed my head, waiting....

Father gave me some advice about walking in holiness, remaining on that path, and asked me to recognize the gift of Faith for what it is...a Divine Gift, and to TRUST in that gift. Then he gave me my penance.

I am constantly shocked at the penances I have been given, for they never seem to equate to the sins I have just confessed; and it is here that we see the Mercy of Jesus. It is here that we see the true heart of Jesus, for we are kneeling before him, our hands in his, our heads bowed, and he wipes our tears. Jesus does not wish to punish or condemn; no, he wishes to forgive, to heal our wounds, and to encourage us to continue trying. He is love, he is justice, he is mercy, he is peace.

And each and every time I leave that confessional, I realize that I've gotten another glimpse at the Lord; have taken another step to understanding the depths of his mercy. And even if I have been able to hold back the tears long enough to make my Confession, when it is complete and I am back kneeling before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, the tears come, complete with joy and thanksgiving.

And this is what brings me back, over and over again, because it is awareness of my sin and willingness to acknowledge it that brings me first to Confession. And it is that big step that brings us all into the fold of the Lord's grace. He does not turn the penitents away, but rather dries our tears and admonishes us only to "Go, and sin no more." It is this that gives us the strength to continue on, striving to walk in holiness, striving to overcome those things that seperate us from the love of God.

It is not God that puts up the barriers, it is us. He always awaits, arms open, but we must be the ones to come to Him.

I don't love going to Confession for it's not fun to stand in line, in a public acknowledgment that I have done something wrong, maybe even gravely wrong. (Although the seal will never be broken and none of us will ever know the Confession of another). And it's not fun to have sweaty hands holding tangled rosary beads, to realize that we are committing the same sins over and over again. But none of that matters, for we aren't there to be comfortable; we are there because we love God and we strive to become closer to Him, to become more like Him. If we are to become more like Jesus, we must first recognize those ways in which we are NOT like him, and seek to change. None of us can do this alone; it requires grace, it requires effort, and it requires wise counsel.

And because we know we have done wrong and we feel badly about it, we can't fix it ourselves, and we know we need to go to our beloved and ask for forgiveness.

There is nothing better than hearing the gentle sound of the priest speaking with the authority of Jesus Christ himself, imparting the blessing of forgiveness, telling us to "Go in peace, your sins are forgiven."

Thank you, Jesus, I love you Jesus, Thank you, Jesus.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Greatest Commandment

Jesus told us, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor and yourself. Upon these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22: 37-40)

Some time ago I taught the lesson on Catholic Social Teaching for my parish's RCIA class, thus, as anyone who is familar with the Social Doctrine knows, it is also hung upon the "Greatest Commandment".

Then today, I visited Jeff Cavins' website and found a post which inspired me to return to discuss Jesus' commandment. (Please go there and read the entire post as Jeff gives us some great food for thought.)

If the local newspaper had been following you around during this past week looking for evidence that you were a disciple of Christ, what evidence would be most convincing? Would it be the vision statement on for your corporation or apostolate? Would it be your ability to raise funds to drive your project? Would it be how many times you went to mass or prayed the rosary? What would be the most convincing evidence that would lead the reader to conclude that you were a Christian?

For weeks...nay, months, I have been working on this. My regular readers will remember my crisis in the week before Christmas, and what it comes down to is my own inability to follow the Greatest Commandment; for there is no way to show our love for God without displaying abundant love for our neighbor.

If someone was following me around with a camera, they would find only a hypocrite; I constantly complain, I express my irritation with people, and I probably do petty little things to express my displeasure. It is not a sin to be irritated by people; it is not a sin to become annoyed. But it becomes a sin when we give in to those irritations and forget the dignity inherent in each person, each of whom is made in the image nad likeness of God.

As Jeff points out so well in his commentary, we have to die to ourselves in order to live up to the directive Jesus provides us. But how often do we continue to place ourselves at the helm and the forefront?

A priest at our parish, in delivering his last Sunday homily with us, discussed this very message also. We so often forget to focus on the fact that when we look at another human being, we are looking at the image of God, and thus we owe that person the respect God gave them in their inherent dignity.

It is not easy to follow in Jesus' footsteps; we must all take up our crosses, die to ourselves, and bear the whips and thorns of everyday life, often delivered by other people. We must be willing to look them in the eye, and as Father pointed out, acknowledge their dignity even if we don't feel like it. Even if we are annoyed, even if we are having a bad day. We need to overcome our own willfulness and reach out with the love of Christ and be that light to the world.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

You may refrain from bowing

...but I would appreciate it greatly if my next appearance is preceeded by minstrels and trumpets to announce my royal presence. Thank you.

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Her Royal Highness Adoro the Complex of Hoptonshire by Leer
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Theater of the Absurd

The anti-spirit in art walks the stage in the Theater of the Absurd, in the plays of Ionesco, Jean Genet, and Adamov; it slouches on campuses in those who hold that it is the business of society to support the universities until the students know enough to overthrow society. It genuflects in the sanctuary with anti-liturgy balloons, contrived prefaces and bare feet; in literature, the anti-hero acts out his emotions of cruelty, despair and remorse because he has lost his way and in the Church, by contempt of the Pope, and the damnation of the Church as an "institution." These anti-moods are like mountains on which humanity clings to "cliffs of fall." Security seems to be a dream, and disaster a certitude to those who know this anti-mood.

~ Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Servant of God

Does this sound like anything familiar? U of M, anyone? Pope and the Witch, anyone? I think we can add Dario Fo to the list of hall of shamers noted above, slouching about in college campuses...the director acting out his emotions of cruelty, despair, and remorse...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

"Pope and the Witch" in the National Catholic Register

Anthony Flott has a byline in the National Catholic Register; and from his position in Nebraska, HE can smell the sulpher oozing from the cracks and crannies in the U of M Theatre why can't Minnesota Catholics?

To recap, the University of Minnesota is endorsing flagrant Catholic-bashing, supported by all the big media chains around here, primary of which is the Star Tribune, which, incidentally, hasn't won a Pulitzer Prize for a record-breaking length of time and their financial record is in the toilet.

Yet that doesn't stop their editors from epitomizing the author of the blapsphemous play, Dario Fo, with regard to his accolates as a Nobel-Prize winning playwright. Yet let's keep in mind that Fo did NOT win any awards for THIS particular play, it's never had great reviews or attendance, and in fact, the only thing it does is highlight his intolerance of Catholics and Catholicism. So if we go with the popular logic, since The Strib hasn't won any prizes, can we completely discredit them to the same degree that they use this prize to credit this hack of a playwright?

That's my first question in logic to you all. Why does the media think that Fo's status as a prize winner give him any credibility in this topic? It's a red herring and only serves to display the depth of ignorance and lack of defense for their endorsement and propagation of religious intolerance.

Now, let's leave the substandard media offerings behind us, and focus on the criticisms of those of us defending our faith; taken from Flott's article, a comment by anti-Catholic play director Robert Rosen:

Though it doesn’t debut until March 1, Rosen says he already considers “The Pope and the Witch” a success. “And we haven’t even begun rehearsals yet,” he says. “The amount of talk, Internet talk and print has been amazing.”

Both people who purport to be "good Catholics", and people who support the play think that they are logical in stating that Catholic outrage has fueled publicity for the play. But let's remember how Satan works.

I'd like to use another example, taken from Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ". Remember in the Agony in the Garden, Satan whispered sweetly yet menacingly into Jesus' ear, saying, "A man cannot take on the sin of the world..."

Satan always tries to discredit; he tries to stem the tide of affront to his work, for the battles fought by believers against Him always leaves him crushed, as opposed to his own hellish goals. So it goes that when people say, "Your protest only fuels support for X endeavor", it is really Satan running scared, doing all in his power to intimidate so that we will be quiet and stand down.

And that is exactly what play supporters are trying to do by saying that the letters written by we protesters only fuel publicity. This very claim should cause us all to open our eyes and see what is at work here; and it sure ain't the stagehands. Everyone in support of this play gives witness to their position as pliable puppets in the hands of the devil, and if we let them dissuade us from defending our faith, then we have lost. And folks, we Catholics can't afford another loss; we are under attack as it is. Why would we want to make it easy for the enemy?

And more false logic; supporters of any anti-Catholic agenda love to say that our outcry against that which offends us is "censorship", but I have YET to see a similar-themed attack against Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, or any other major religion. Yet we as Catholics are supposed to "buck up and take it". Fine, we can take some punches, but we have no problem in hurling spears back...and we tend to have very good aim.

Catholics, as a rule, are not violent people. We protest, but we don't bomb, nor do we threaten any such thing. We respect human life, and the rights of others to disagree. But that is not to say we are doormats. Far from it! Words carry weight, and a good logical defense is worth more than a few trite, unsupported words from a sulpher-smelling University with no leg whatsoever to stand on.

I know of a few Catholics who will not take this lying down, nor will we accept the ridiculous lack of logic in the "defense" taken up by the U of M and their brainwashed anti-Catholic supporters.

We will continue to speak out against this blatant attack against our faith, and we, encourage all of you to do the same.

I'd like to thank Anthony Flott for taking the time to publicize this issue at a national level, and for local bloggers Ray Marshall and Janice LaDuke for speaking out so strongly in defense of the Church.

And for you local Catholics who currently subscribe to substandard anti-Catholic poor-excuse-for-a-newspaper Star Tribune...isn't it time to cancel your subscription to them and purchase one for the National Catholic Register?

And don't forget to withhold cash from any U of M sponsered event, boycott any alumni requests for funds, and write to the appropriate authorities in protest of your tax dollars going to support a University that perpetuates, illegally, an affornt and demonstrable intolarance to your faith while hiding behind a pretext of "First Amendment Protection".

We have a right and a duty to stand up for the truth, and if we aren't willing to take the flack for speaking out on behalf of Jesus, then we don't deserve to call ourselves Christians.

Don't let the media or ignorant supporters of "Pope and the Witch" intimidate you from responding with righteous indignation to the insults layered upon you; If all those who call themselves "Catholic" would have the backbone to speak out, then this play would never again see the stage.

That's true power. Use it.