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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Pope and the Witch - opens this week

The play which has so served to discredit the U of M and especially their theatre department and President Bruinicks is set to open tomorrow evening.

I was just watching the news, and Channel 9 has a story on it tonight.

Sadly, they featured a student who is "passionate" about population control; ostensibly because the play attacks...oh. ahem, right...."discusses" the Catholic Church's teachings about abortion and contraception.

I wonder if the guy who is so "passionate" about population control is aware of the population implosion that will render his Social Security benefits non-existant, or if he's aware of the implosion over in Europe? The story of course did not discuss what his position is on "population control" but given the overall tone of the story, he was approving of Dario Fo's attack...ahem...discussion.

Right.

So sad, to live in such a world that finds it appropriate to propagate such a travesty in the name of "education". I wonder what's going to happen to all the Catholic students as people start to question them on the Church's moral teachings? What will they say? To date, catechesis has still not been great, although it's improving, so what we have is a bunch of defensless Catholics who are not prepared to face the backlash that could come against them as a result of this play.

I guess the U forgot to consider their Catholic students when they agreed to allow such a play to go on.

I do have to comment on one thing, however; the news was stating that there have been some threatening e-mails. They didn't indicate what kind of "threats" were involved, and I am saddened that some people seem to feel that the way to get their point across is to threaten others. Not very Christian, and definitely an act to be condemned.

Real Catholics don't send threatening e-mails. Period. Real Catholics remember that Faith and Reason are necessarily linked, and we use those things as the basis for our response against unjust attacks against our beliefs. Threats have no place in our theology or in the practice of our faith.

Bread Crust Update

It's still there, unclaimed. It weathered the first storm well (pardon the pun) and so far has not been released by the currently rushing winds. Is there a metaphor for my life there in that mysterious bread crust?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Human Dignity

I spent most of today working on several short papers for my IPT class, and I'm still struggling with academic anxiety. I'm learning a lot, but for some reason, I don't seem to have the ability to translate what's in my head to a couple paragraphs required for each question.

One of the questions pertains to what John Paul II said about human dignity. For the life of me, I can't seem to make this paper happen, but I have to say SOMETHING on this because it is a very relevant topic for our culture.

Just out of curiosity, I went to Wikipedia to check out their definition of "human dignity" and was absoutely shocked by what I saw. They don't have a good definition; they have a bunch of wishy-washy stuff I refuse to post on my blog. If you'd like to check it out for yourself, here's the link to the "definition" Wikipedia provides.

This kind of thing always riles me up, and it of course feeds into the creative process, so although I can't seem to be concise enough for my paper, I sure can discuss the topic in general!

The main publication being used currently is Redemptor Hominis, and it is from this source that I am to gather my information. That is not to say there are not other sources. For the purposes of this particular post, please understand that unless I indicate otherwise, all information is obtained from that specific Encyclical.

I think in order to accurately understand his writings, it is important for all of us to understand that John Paul II wrote everything from the standpoint of, not only authentic Catholicism and the teachings of Vatican II, but against the backdrop of the theme of human dignity. "Human dignity" is a phrase woven throughout his works, and considerin his having grown up in Nazi and Communist Poland, it's easy to understand why this concept underscored his life and his pontificate.

Redemptor Hominis was the first of his encyclicals, and I have to admit that it's one worthy of being read again and again for anyone seeking to understand the dilemma of modern life and our innate yearnings for something greater.

Which brings us to the topic at hand, human dignity. I've often seen, and even participated in discussions surrounding this mysterious concept of "human dignity". Only read the Wikipedia definition and the confusion surrounding this is made clear, and we cannot help but be alarmed by the fact that so many do not understand what it means to have dignity.

John Paul II starts by explaining that man has innate dignity by virtue of the fact that he has been created for God, out of the love of God, in God's own image and likeness. No other creature or creation can claim such a heritage; none other than man has been created specifically for God himself. And therin lies the foundation of human dignity.

But there is more to this theology, for God went further and granted his greatest creation a free will; and through abuse of that freedom, man broke his union with God, falling from Eden. Falling from the union of God's love, not by God's choice, but by man's. Yet the Lord is faithful, and thus to bridge this failure of man, God himself sent His only Son, both human and divine.

The Second Vatican Council, in Gaudium et Spes states this so eloquently:

He who is the 'image of the invisible God (Col.1:15), is Himself the perfect man who has restored in the children of Adam that likeness to God which had been disfigured ever since the first sin. Human nature, by the very fact that it was assumed, not absorbed, in Him, has been raised in us al to a dignity beyond compare. For, by his Incarnation, He, the Son of God, in a certain way united Himself with each man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart He loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin.

From this explanation, John Paul II brings us into the mystery of the redemption, that act in which our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, by his sacrifice "fully reveals man to himself."

God became man, and through His experiences, he reveals man and his potential for grace and union with God. It is through His death upon the cross that man recognizes himself, sees in Jesus the reflection of God, which necessarily brings him deeper into the very mystery of humanity.

It is through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we as humanity are redeemed, freed from the sins that seperated us, and the meaning of our lives has been restored. Through God become man, He is inextricably united with each and every human being. Each and every human being has been "willed by God, as chosen by him from eternity and called, destined for grace and glory." (Redemptor Hominis 14)

Our society often sees man as only an instrument, a means to an end; yet in the Gospels we find the Truth, that of the love of God for man, the love of God for His creation. The world we live in constantly undermines this divine love of Christ, who died for us, and who, through his death imparted the breath of life that is the Holy Spirit. It is the mystery not only of creation but of God Incarnate that makes our lives holy, that makes each life holy, and drives us to seek that eternal union with God the Father, as he originally intended.

Marian Sisters of the Diocese of Lincoln Holy Week Retreat!


The Lincoln Diocese is known nationally to be a solid, faithful haven for all those seeking to find authentic Catholic life and devotion. An authoratative source from this wonderful community has contacted me with the request to pass on some information for their upcoming Holy Week retreat.


HOLY WEEK RETREAT

The Sisters invite all single young women (ages 18-32 plus high school seniors) to their Holy Week Retreat beginning Holy Thursday, April 5 at 6:00 p.m. and will finish on Holy Saturday, April 7 at 2:00 p.m.

Father Dan Seiker will be leading the retreat, which will be held at the Catholic Center. Cost to attend the retreat is $30.00 for students and $40 for non-students. Scholarships are available.

To register or for more information please contact Sister Janelle at either marian-vocations@cdolinc.net or call 402-786-2750

www.mariansisters.org


"Keep Jesus Crucified fixed in your heart and all the crosses of the world will seem to you to be roses."
St. Padre Pio



Could there be any better way to prepare for the central celebration of our Catholic faith?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Desert

I continually read about Lent as being a "desert", and so it is. We go into the desert as did Jesus, to face our temptations, to recognize what rules us, and to overcome those passions that keep us from God.

Father Powell has a great post on this today, so here's just a snippet to encourage you to go and read the rest:

These forty days are a countdown for detachment, for unplugging. Lent is a time for us to detach from all the teats of our poisoned culture and to stop sucking at the breasts of market-tested nihilism and brand-name conformity; to stop the sewer-flood of Hollywood-funded debauchery and sadism into our homes; to speak the gospel Truth to the dark powers of “might makes right” moralities; to witness against the suicidal, all-you-can-eat buffet of liberal religious candy our children are fed daily...even in our Catholic schools. Lent is a time for you to remove your lips from the honeyed breasts of genetic science and its Faustian promise of near-immortality. You will live forever but not by murdering a child; you can be beautiful forever but not at the price of harvesting our children like melons.

I just LOVE good writing and strong images, especially those that show us in stark relief the realities of the world we have to face every single day.

What are you doing here? Go read the rest of what he has to say!

Prayer: Direct Communication with God

Sometimes we pray, and it seems that God does not answer, but yet He hears every word before we even conceive our supplications.

I have had much on my mind and heart lately, such a heavy burden to carry! The anxiety over my job, the anxiety over my papers (first time with academic anxiety - I don't like it), and anxiety over a talk I have to give on Wednesday to the RCIA class. Nothing major, but it was just another thing on my plate. Anxiety over tomorrow's trip to the Basilica with RCIA for the Rite of Sending has also been a source of anxiety because it is a big chunk out of my day, time I need to utilize for my class. And then anxiety over the winter storm that is now pummeling us with nearly-full force, which promises to cause ever more wreckage and anxiety come Monday, for bad weather makes my job even worse and adds exponentially to our workload. And the impossible demands of my employer.

And that brings me to today; this morning, I was speaking with one of our priests and I told him that I was hoping Jesus would speak very directly to me during Adoration this afternoon, and tell me what to say on Wednesday. He of course joked about me making demands of God, and I responded that I would not do that (anymore) but that God's direct answer to me would benefit the group of people I have to speak to!

Well, this afternoon's hour-plus with Jesus was indeed fruitful. He doesn't always assist me in such a way, but today, He gave me what I needed and then some!

Firstly, he helped to direct my studies for the paper I began this morning. Things are a little clearer now and I have a better idea of what I need to do to complete that one and the others.

Then as I read, I came across the answer as to WHY I hate my job so much! It's so obvious, and we've discussed this concept at work, but I didn't realize the theology behind our discontent. And because I know there are others of you in the same boat, I will share the passage that so enlightened me this afternoon:

But capitalism too, the capitalism of the first world, is guilty of a like fault, a like denial of the dignity of man. For advanced capitalist societies have turned people away from their authentic personhood to the consumerism of "a web of false and superficial gratifications" or have organized work so as to maximize profit with no concern whether the worker, through his labor, grows or diminishes as a person, whether he is treated, and then treats himself, as an end and not as a means.

A true and just society must take the dignity of man as its basis and its goal, and must serve man instead of making man serve it or things or profit.
("On Karol Wojtyla", Peter Simpson, p. 88)

WOW! That's my company in a nutshell!

And then my talk for Wednesday; I read over the scriptures I have to discuss, and the answer was right there before my eyes. Although I had read these passages already, I wasn't able to "see" what I needed to do, but suddenly, it became clear.

I looked up at Jesus, teary-eyed, and thanked him from the bottom of my heart for the graces of just an hour at his feet, the answers to questions, the answers to prayrs, the direction he provided to help me overcome the immediate hurdles in my life.

Unfortunately, He didn't tell me WHERE to look for another job, but given the passage I read, I know better where NOT to go, and that, sometimes, is a good portion of the battle.

Please go spend time with Jesus. Bring everything with you, put it in His hands, and give Him the freedom and permission to answer according to His will. Do not make demands, but rather, be open to what He wants to say. Sometimes Jesus will answer everything, sometimes he will leave you to ponder, and sometimes He seems to be silent. But even in His silence, He is with you, He understands you and your situation even more cleary that you do, and in those moments, He asks only for your faith and your trust.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Random Things of Little Interest to Anyone

I just thought that I'd throw up a random post to see if anyone is paying attention.

First thing of note: Today is the Thursday after Ash Wednesday. For more information on how the 40 days are counted, check out Shouts in the Piazza for the details. H/T to Ray at Stella Borealis for posting the link!

Second thing...Confession is necessary for the soul for all sinners out there. I went tonight, so since my committment this Lent is to be a Saint in 40 days, I've decided I'm no longer a sinner. I'm done. I'm giving up sin for Lent. I figured that if I give up sin, then I'll by definition become closer to God. So we'll see how long this lasts.....

Thirdly; the piece of bread, or manna from heaven, or whatever we want to call it is still nestled in the skeletal branches of the bush outside my door. I'm trying to think of a name for it because it doesn't seem to want to go anywhere. Or maybe I'll just sit outside in the snowstorm this weekend and contemplate the mysterious crust of bread and what spiritual lessons it could possibly hold for this lenten season.

And last of all, I'm not too far along in my reading for class. Shame on you all for reading my blog when I should be studying. The next time I go to Confession I'm going to tell on all of you! You're a bad influence!

But alas, I'm not giving up blogging for Lent.

In all seriousness, though, I'm intimidated and as I understand it, this is a common reaction from first-time Grad students, especially those of us who have been out of school for 10 years. For 10 years, I've been reading for pleasure, mostly, and no one has been around to hold me accountable for the heavier stuff I've read. Now I'm in a panic as I wade through deeply Theological and relevant Encyclicles of JPII. I've never had test anxiety before, but now, I think I have PAPER anxiety! Who woulda thunk it?

I thank GOD in all His wisdom for not allowing me to return to school full-time. For those who have been reading for awhile, you are aware of my disappointment when UST accepted me last November as a non-degree seeking student, which quashed my hopes for beginning this semester. Then Ave Maria University came along with a 1 credit course and here I am! Panicking!

Don't worry, I'll get over it, and if I don't, well, then I guess that'll be God's way of telling me to not even CONSIDER further studies until...well, until either the time is right or, maybe never.

I've decided I don't like discernment. Can I give that up for Lent, too? Must discern....

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday!


Today we began our 40 day fast, our 40 days of penance in preparation for Baptism. In the early days of the Church, those who were converting underwent a few years of instruction, and the 40 days of penance and fasting in preparation for Baptism was likely far more stringent than our spoiled culture of today could endure. And the entire Church went through this period of preparation with the catechumans. Isn't that fascinating?

When I was a litte girl, I remember being somewhat excited about Ash Wednesday, because it was the only time during the year we were allowed to approach the altar. We never got anything to eat like Mom did later during Mass, and we were always suspicious of what was going on up there, but receiving the ashes always seemed to placate us to a certain extent.

We were NOT allowed to wipe our foreheads, though. No matter how much it "itched", we had to keep the ashes planted right where they had been set. Mom had been raised in a Catholic school by olde-tyme nuns who weren't afraid to say what was what. But I think they must have suggested at some point that removing them might be a sin, because according to Mom, we must NEVER remove the ashes until it was time for sleep.

She explained that wearing the ashes was a form of penance; because it was uncomfortable, because people stared at us while we walked around with dirt on our foreheads, etc, it was to lead to a mysterious virtue called "humility". We didn't "get it", but if she caught us surrepetitiously trying to wipe the ashes off, she'd stop us.

This is how it was for my family, and for many others, I suspect. So as I grew up, we never removed our ashes, and as this was the way I was raised, I didn't really question it.

But as I got older, it hasn't been an issue. I go to Mass in the evening, so I just go home bearing my ashes on my forehead, and keep our family observance without involving the rest of the world. (Until now...and now I have a dilemma; now that you KNOW I have ashes on my forehead, amd I required to remove them to avoid making an outward sign of penance, even though you can't see me? This is going to keep me awake all night....)

There are many arguments both for and against keeping the ashes if you have to go out in public and about your day. I would say it's definitely NOT a sin to remove them, but each individual has to make the decision as to what they would prefer to do. And each has to ask if whatever their choice is, is it being done for the right reason?

Father Powell has a great post up which has convinced me to never go out in public with ashes on my forehead ever again. His point is that, as we read in the scriptures, to not have an outward sign of penance, by the direct order of Jesus. (Thank you, Father Powell).

Yet at the same time, on Relevant Radio Sean Herriott and Douglas Bushman, and apparently Father Rocky discussed this very thing and seemed to be in favor of the ashes being left. They tend to think that is is a good witness to other Catholics and even non-Catholics as it gets people to recognize the beginning of Lent and to talk about it. They see it as a form of evangelization.

What amazes me about Ash Wednesday is that I have heard more about whether or not to leave the ashes on than I have about what Lent MEANS! Quite honestly, if we're more worried about ashes on our foreheads than the interior conversion we are SUPPOSED to be thinking about, then we are missing the entire point of Ash Wednesday.

"Man, thou art dust, and to dust you shall return."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Prepare to Enter the Desert


Today is the last day of Ordinary time; tomorrow, we begin 40 days of fasting and penance in preparation for Easter, the central celebration of our faith.

We enter into the desert, just as Jesus did, and we voluntarily work to enter into and understand His suffering, so that we may better understand the love he has for us, so much so that he died horribly that we might live.

Jesus did so much for us; can we not do a few things for him to interrupt the comfort of our modern lives?

I used to be terrible with Lent; as a child, Mom always made us give up candy. There was no choice involved. "You're not going to eat candy or sweets until Easter, and you're going to LIKE IT!"

There was no discipline being taught by that method; we did not have the power to obtain sweets for ourselves, so we were deprived without another option. And we tried for 40 days to get what we wanted, usually to no avail, although sometimes we found a stash somewhere.

Then I got older, and as soon as I had some freedom, I didn't give up candy. I gave up Lent. And in all but name, I gave up the Church that had been my haven for so long. I entered a different kind of desert, one that drew me on a road to Hell, and to this day, I'm still trying to recover from the experience. My soul will bear those scars until I enter (by God's grace) the beautific vision.

Even since my return to the Church, my Lenten practices have been lackluster. Last year was somewhat fruitful, in that I recognized what a slave I am to my passions. And I returned to them fully after Easter.

Part of the discipline of Lent has to do with spiritual progress, obtaining control over our passions that otherwise enslave us. It is not about taking a temporary stance only to return and submit to those things or attitudes that control us during the rest of the year.

But this year is going to be different. I have been reading some great books, have recieved great advice and insights from those more spiritual than I, and this year, it's time to face some demons.

I cannot face these demons alone; I cannot overcome these demons by myself. The problem, I've realized, is that I always made the mistake of entering into a dialogue with the demon:

"Yeah, you gave this up for Lent, but you have a choice; you can be as strict or as lenient as you wish, and as long as you aren't doing/eating/engaging in this as often as before, then it's still a deprivation...."

or maybe this:

"You can fall and just pick yourself up again. You can break your fast, it doesn't ruin your day, even if you break it every day you can start over, God understands..."

or even this:

"What's the point? You're only going to return to this habit after Easter...why not just admit you can't do without this and resolve to give it up next year instead?"

And this is how we enter into dialogue with these demons. These demons that keep us enslaved to our passions.

I'm better equipped now, and I've leared that this entrance into dialogue is just a repeat of the Garden of Eden. It is the voice of the serpent that tempted Eve, now tempting us.

Let me be very clear; if you DO give up something for Lent, or promise a certain practice, and you forget, or fail, or break your fast, DON'T GIVE UP! The temptor knows that the best way to get to us is to remain close to the truth, but he leaves it open-ended for it is so easy for us to justify ourselves when we have an opening.

So if the Temptor is telling you, every day, to start over, then recognize this temptation for what it is and SHUT IT DOWN! Don't let the dialogue begin. When you hear that slithering voice hissing in your ear, say an Our Father, a Hail Mary, or this prayer I recently learned:

"I claim the protection of the Blood of the Lamb!"

Repeat as necessary and let the Temptor slither away to be crushed under the heel of the Blessed Mother and drenched in the saving Blood of Christ who died to ransom you from such a beast.

Everyone, I have chosen to face some demons this Lent, and I even told one of our priests that in 40 days, I'm going to be a Saint. He actually didn't laugh at me for once - not to my face anyway. But I have a feeling that the second I was out of sight he doubled over in hysterics at the thought!

So I ask for your prayers...not that I become a Saint (although if that's what God's asking, then may His will be done), but rather, that God give me the Grace to face these demons and call upon the power of Heaven when the Temptor comes my way. It promises to be a very difficult time, yet a necessary one. I can't do this alone.

So I ask you to pray for me, and I, in turn, am happy to pray for you as well. We are a community, we have to pray for each other because NONE of us really faces these things alone. We all need the support and prayers of others. So if you care to post your intention, whether specific or general (ie: pray for me), then please do so.

Lent is a blessed time of year; we should all try to reap the benefits of the spiritual practices encouraged by the Church, and through those, come to better understand why there can never be a Resurrection without great Suffering and a Death on the Cross.

Catholic Carnival 107

In need of a little Divine Therapy?

Go check out this weeks's Catholic Carnival, hosted by To Jesus Through Mary.

You do NOT WANT to miss a single post!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Transformation from God's Love

Already, my newfound education is bearing fruit in the form of inspiration.

Yesterday, as I sat in class, I began to realize the formation component of our education; we cannot truly learn about God without entering into the mystery of who He is and allowing Him to penetrate our souls. So, in order to discuss God and his will for us, we first have to understand his love for us. His all-encompassing love.

Here's a nugget from our class notes (a bound volume):

"In the end, then, all questions really boil down to: 'Won't somebody love me?' 'Isn't there a God with real, effective, powerful love?' 'Who can fulfill all the aspiration I find in my heart?' 'Am I loveable, despite so much evil within?' 'Who will rescue me and purify my conscience?'"

(Thank you, Professor Bushman)

Now, remember, this degree is for an MA in Pastoral Theology, thus what we are learning applies pastorally; what we learn we apply to ourselves, certainly, but we also must remember to take these lessons and apply them to others. Where can we help answer these questions? In what ways can we assist others in understanding the love of God? How do we recognize when these questions are being asked?

Sometimes we have to seek those answers within ourselves and our own experiences before we can understand how to take this lesson into the rest of the world.

So as this lesson was being taught, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the immensity of God's love for us. I was suddenly recognizing the fact that ALL of us are called forth from conception to do something special for God. He does not create in haste or upon a whim; God has a specific purpose for each and every human being. I am no exception.

Funny how that suddenly hit me; sure, I've recogized this before, but when speaking or writing of it, I tend to think of the unborn who have been slaughtered, people around me, etc. Yeah, I considered myself, too, but in reality, I haven't given it as much thought as I could have; more of a cursory, "What is God asking of me?" Amazing the passive ignorance of a woman in discernment.

Maybe the question I should have begun with was the very question we addressed in class, that fundamental question for everyone; "Am I loveable? Does God love ME? And what does that MEAN?"

I realized last night how personal God's love really is for all of us, and that it was not an accident or my own ambition that brought me to that classroom. If nothing else, I was suddenly floored by the fact that I was sitting in a Grad level theology class.

Only a few years ago, as recent as 2003, I was barely Catholic. I was struggling with the basic questions of existence and seeking God. I was not regularly attending Mass, and I did not understand the Real Presence.

When I DID go to Mass, I entered and sat near the rear of the church, feeling like I didn't belong, although I desperately wanted to. I was terrified that all the other Catholics there would look at me, recognize me as the fraud I thought I was, and banish me. I was terrified that if I sat too close to the front of the Sanctuary, that I would burn up on the spot.

I was Eve, hiding in the garden. But God knew where I was the entire time, and it was only because He called me that I was there at all.

But God is patient, and he will not infringe upon our free will; he offers himself willingly to our abuse, knowing that we don't understand, we are afflicted, and that it is his love that both created us and will save us.

So I shyly came to Mass, avoided contact with anyone I considered to be "holy", which was pretty much everyone, especially the priests. Seriously, I was terrified to be seen by the priests because I had a sense that they would see how much I suffered and I would have to reveal how tortured I was. Yet I knew that's where I needed to go, to receive the Sacrament of Penance. What I most needed I avoided because, at my very core, I think I believed that I was not worthy to be forgiven. I was terrified that if one of the priests found out how I felt (how they would know this, I have no idea!), they would lead me to where I was not ready to go.

And so my most common prayer was straight to the heart of God's love: Don't give up on me. I love you, I'm trying, but I can't do this yet. Don't give up on me, don't ever give up on me! I cried so many tears in supplication to our Lord, begging that He never give up on me!

My prayer was really the question addressed in class yesterday; "Am I worthy of love in all my sinfulness? Am I loveable?"

And I was so afraid that the answer was "No" that I fled from the foot of the cross that had ransomed me.

Finally, I did go to Confession again and slowly, tentatively, found my way towards the front of the Sanctuary at Mass. I began to become involved, marginally, in the life of the Church.

Yet something was missing; I wasn't really "there" yet. I had not been fully healed and repeatedly I went to Confession with old sins as well as new, seeking that love of God, seeking to know if I was worthy of His love. Because in all that, I now recognize my core question; Do you REALLY love me?

One Friday I came home from work, but was so restless I knew I needed to go to the only one who could answer me; Jesus. So I went to the church, and waited in the Sanctuary for Mass to end. At our parish, Daily Mass is in the chapel, which adjoins the cavernous Sanctuary. So while I waited, I had this huge room to myself and sat contemplating the enormous crucifix which graces the altar.

God filled that room. I looked at the candle burning over the tabernacle, recognizing the presence of Christ, yet I was completely ENVELOPED by the love of God. His presence could not be denied.

And suddenly, loudly, His voice spoke from within;

"I am NOT ashamed of you!"

I jumped, and looked around. No one was there, but God's presence was so strong, I understood instantly that the statement had originated from him.

He said it again, more quietly this time:

"I am NOT ASHAMED of you!"

This was followed by yet a more gentle question,

"Why are you ashamed of YOURSELF?"

I began to weep, unable to stop the tears. Until that moment, I did not realize that I honestly believed that God was ashamed of me. And this belief had made me so ashamed of myself that I had not been able to accept that I was forgiven or worthy of his love. Or anyone's love.

It was a moment of clarity, a moment in which I suddenly recognized that God's love overcomes EVERYTHING, especially our own shame. I had been to Confession; it was time to let it go. I was a new creation, but until God spoke to me and, in His love, helped me to recognize that I had not let go of the past, I could not move on.

It was a pivotal moment, one I will never forget.

Last night, as I sat in class, it was not so much this moment I remembered, but the understanding of where I was, both spiritually and intellectually only a few years ago.

And then it hit me that I was sitting in a Grad-level theology course, truly contemplating seeking a degree in Pastoral Theology.

And the big question in my mind was, "HOW ON EARTH DID I GET HERE!?"

The answer is simple; I was there out of God's love. God has loved me so much that He waited patiently for me to come home, he welcomed me when I returned, and since my return, he has not given up on me. Rather, he has invited me into a relationship so personal that it pushes me to know more about him and to teach others about Him.

God does this for each and every one of us. God loves us so much that he transforms us to the degree that years after that pivotal moment, we realize that we have been whapped so hard by a Holy 2 x 4 and we didn't even feel it!

God's love is transforming; He enters into our souls and changes us from the inside out. We find ourselves in places we never even considered, and there He reveals Himself even further.

This transformation is lifelong, and the surprises never end.

As we approach Lent, I invite you to ask yourself the questions posed to us, and invite yourself to accept God's love for you. Enter into it; understand it, and let His love transform you.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Ave Maria University - My First Day!

I started today as a "Special Student" with Ave Maria University's Institute for Pastoral Theology. I'm just taking a 1 credit class on the Writings of John Paul II, but I'm doing so as a degree-seeking student. My formal application is due on something like May 1st, if I intend to go on.

It was a marathon day; we began at Noon and took a break every 50 minutes. There was no reading assignment to begin, although we had the reading list. Professor Bushman revealed to us during our mini-orientation that his lecture helps us in our reading so it may be actually bese if we DON'T read the assignment prior to class. Interesting.

And the course is indeed enlightening; not only are we learning about the writings (Encyclicals, Apostolic Letters, Apostolic Exhortations) of JPII, but we are coming to understand his writings in light of Vatican II. Suddenly and unexpectedly, I'm learning a TON about the purpose, vision, and soul of the Second Vatican Council, and boy, is this amazing stuff!

I've said it before and I'll say it again; people who think that they know what Vatican II actually said really need to go READ THE DOCUMENTS because most of what's out there is so completely warped it's unrecognizable.

So today was a long day, but I thoroughly enjoyed all we were learning. I have not yet discerned as to whether I'll be applying to the IPT program, although I'm still leaning towards it; for now, I'm thinking I'll submit my first papers and then see how it goes.

That's another thing; papers. He's going easy on us for the first one, which is "several", but doable. This is more a matter of finding out how to write academic papers again. I realize I was nominated for "Best Written" blog, but this particular medium is a far cry from academic standards. I do hope, though, that my own "style" does come through my academic writings in a way which is consistent with the academic standard, yet without being overly...well....boring.

When I look at the writings of our great theologians, I can't imagine finding a "better" way to state something, or to state something in my own words. In some ways, I feel like I'm in over my head, but then again, tomorrow I'm taking the day off and I hope to get a start on my first paper. Sometimes we have to dive in before we can figure out whether we know how to swim.

Now....if you really can't swim, please don't go dive headlong into a pool; I'm speaking figuratively. (Disclaimer!)

I will say this about today; I felt like I belonged there. The lightbulb was going on right and left, both intellectually and spiritually, so I KNOW that my participation in at least this class is God's will for me. Discernment in process for further education.

I'll likely start reading tonight, but for now, off to catch up on other bloggers and handle other business...my brain is quite full right now and so before I insert my nose into "Redemptor Hominis" I need to relax for a bit. And eat. I haven't had a bite to eat since about 10:30 this morning...and my pizza just arrived! Yay!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Value of ONE Holy Communion


This morning I went to Confession, and as always, I try to listen very carefully to what advice is given to me, and remember it. I'll admit I can't always remember what was said, but today, something really stuck with me, and it was so profound that I decided to share it with you.

One Holy Communion is sufficient to make you a Saint.

Read it again. And again. And again. Internalize this. Understand this.

One Holy Communion carries grace sufficient to make YOU a Saint!

When we as Catholics go forward for Holy Communion, we go to consume the flesh and blood of the Lamb, as foretold in the Old Testament. When the Hebrews fled, they took the blood of the unblemished lamb to mark their lintels, and they consumed the flesh of the lamb; this was a required directive. They did not use red paint, crushed red bugs, or kool-aid. They did not eat soy products. They killed the unblemished lamb and they marked their doorways with his blood so that the Angel of Death would pass over them. And they consumed, while standing up, the flesh of the sacrificial lamb, for this was the complete fulfillment of the Covenant.

We, too, consume the flesh of the Lamb, for this is the fulfillment of the New Covenant. Jesus poured his precious blood out for us, and marked us forever as His Bride. But in order for us to fulfill the Covenant, we must consume His flesh at Holy Communion.

But let's take this a step further; the Church is the Bride of Christ. That means that we, as the people, to include laity, clergy, and religious, are cohesively the Bride of Christ, as well as the mystical body of Christ. Jesus is the bridegroom, and his death on the cross was the Covenant that binds us for eternity.

In his death, Jesus gave himself to us fully, without reservation. He gave everything he had, all to ransom us from our sin. When we look at his teachings, Jesus directed us to:

* "Take up your cross and follow me"

and

* "Love one another as I have loved you."

Love does not come without complete sacrifice. We cannot have a Resurrection without the Cross, Easter without Good Friday.

We cannot have the Wedding Feast of the Lamb without recognizing the Love of God for we, His Bride, or without reoognizing that we have to give our own vows in order to complete the agreement.

Marriage is a sacramental covenant; it is the giving of one to another, dying to self in order to embrace the other completely. It is, at its root, sacrificial. And a marriage is not valid until it is consummated.

When we go forward to recieve Holy Communion, we are proclaiming publicly, as a body and as individuals, that we believe what the Church teaches, that we believe Jesus died for us on the cross, and that we are recieving Him, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. When we go to recieve Jesus, we recognize that He is giving Himself to us in the fulfillment of his Covenant.

We do not "take" Communion; no, we RECIEVE Holy Communion, because we cannot take what has not been offered. Jesus offers himself to us fully, and we, the Bride of Christ, take him into ourselves. When we do this, our role is not passive; we are also offering ourselves and our lives to Him as a sacrifice. We are recognizing that all we have belongs to God, that our very lives are the will of God, and that by receiving Jesus, we must die to ourselves and offer all we have to Him for the good of the mystical body of Christ.

Holy Communion, then, is the consummation of the Mystical Wedding of Jesus and his Bride.

Is it any wonder, then, that the worthy reception of ONE Holy Communion carries grace sufficient to transform us so completely that we should become Saints in an instant?

As we approach Lent, then, ask yourself this question; What has gotten between you and God such that the grace of this Sacrament has not transformed you so completely?

And when you have the answer to that question, you will know what you need to do during this Lenten season. It is within your grasp to become a Saint TODAY. What is stopping you?

Oh, MY! The Parody Strikes...

The other day, I read this post by Angela Messenger.

Gather Us In

Here in this place, our comfortable parish,
All of the statues carried away,
See in each face a vacuous visage,
Brought here by guilt or by R.C.I.A.

Gather us in, by Beammer or Hummer,
Gather us in, so we can feel good,
Come to us now in this barren Zen temple,
With only a shrub and an altar of wood.

We are the young, our morals a mystery,
We are the old, who couldn't care less,
We have been warned throughout all of history,
But we enjoy this liturgical mess.

Gather us in, our radical pastor,
Gather us in, our unveiled nun,
Call to us now, with guitars and bongos,
Hang up your cellphones and join in the fun!

Here we will take some wine and some water,
Whether it changes, we really don't care.
But when the Sign of Peace comes, our pastor,
Jumps from the altar and hugs like a bear.

Gather us in, the privileged and snobby,
Gather us in, the liberal elite,
Help us to form our personal Credo,
Give us a choice between white bread and wheat.


I usually go to Mass on Sunday morning, but because of an event tomorrow, I went to Mass tonight. And can you guess what was the opening "hymn"?

Yes, that's right. You have NO IDEA how HARD it was to not bust out laughing! Especially when it got to the 3rd verse!

"We are the young, our morals a mystery..."

I found myself nearly singing ANGELA'S LYRICS!

Humor is dangerous, people. Dangerous indeed. Especially when we must be solomn and tranquil...and apparently vacuous. And I'm not certain that suppressed laughter is healthy.

I had to offer it up.

And I think Angela's got my nomination for next year's "Funniest Catholic Blog" award.

More on Spiritual Direction


Last night I had a dream. I was sitting in an auditorium (or something), and to my right was a priest. We were having a deep discussion, during which he put his arm around my shoulder in a fatherly way, partially to keep our conversation confidential, partially in comfort. I remember that in the dream, I was somewhat discouraged about something and he was giving me advice. I think at some point he handed me a kleenex, and I laid my head against his shoulder, accepting the comfort he did have to give in that moment, and listening closely to what he had to say.

Obviously this dream resulted from my post of last night, that of seeking Spiritual Direction, but it also called me attention to another element of what I may need; a father. Specifically a father.

In the dream, although I don't remember what was being said, the overall tone of the conversation, the action in the dream, etc., was all about the relationship of a father and daughter. There was a spiritual metaphor there which mimiced real life, and within that, was an answer to my recent prayer for insight.

BAM! Suddenly I understand a little more, now, why I feel so strongly that I need a male SD!

I come from a broken home (who doesn't these days?) and we were raised by our mother. Our father was an alcoholic so was rarely available to BE a father, even when they were married. And after they divorced, although he had his moments, his disease was always in the way and it drove a wedge so deeply into our relationship with him that this chasm was never repaired. He died in 1995, when I was only 20.

I have written of my father before, and yes, I loved him dearly, and I miss those special father-daughter moments, but because of the way things were, I really have never had a father to go to for advice, etc. I have a mother, and have most often recieved counsel from women, which is quite common and normal. Right, ladies?

However, as we know from lessons such as Theology of the Body, we need a balance in order to be properly formed. We need a father, whether we are male or female, we need that father figure somewhere in our lives to balance us.

While I'm not seeking a "father figure" according to the secular psycho-babble understanding of the term, I know that one of the things I most appreciate about our priests is their fatherliness. It's not anywhere near the same thing as having a familial father, yet, in the spiritual life, where they step in, they provide the balance to what we women may already intuitively know and understand. Yet the practical side often comes from men.

I think I'm explaining this badly, but bear with me; I'm trying.

Here's the gist of what I am trying to say; look around your parish. Women are EVERYWHERE! It is so often women who lead the men to church, women who raise the children in the faith, women who run devotions. And I'm talking about solid, faithful Catholic women. We women have been designed in a certain way which helps us relate to God and it comes very naturally to us. You've heard it said that women are intuitive, and this is true. It is through this gift that God calls women to Him and to service for Him. Now, that's not to say that men are not given this grace, but the charism of men, as they are designed by God, is to be leaders, to take the practical balance to the women's natural emotion/intuitiveness. Men and women NEED each other, because even in everyday relationships, we compliment each other. We bring specific charisms to everything we do, and if we are following those natural inclinations according to God's designs, wonderful things happen.

So I think that's why I am specifically seeking a priest to direct me; to take that role as Spiritual Father, to help give me a balance that I have never had before. I totally "get" what St. Frances de Sales, St. Augustine, St. John of the Cross are saying (well, to the best of my ability, anyway) on an intuitive level. And I'm not without practicality; yet I need that balance of a male/fatherly perspectve to help me plumb the depths of such spiritual writings and how they truly apply to myself.

I did meet with a priest some time ago, and in a discussion, he held me to a certain standard, in a very non-judgmental way, and I squirmed under his scrutiny. He did exactly what he was supposed to do; provided fatherly direction for that particular occurrance, his insight from a male perspective was dead on, and I have never forgotten his lesson. Although I argued with him. He simply let me argue. And I did exactly what I did with St. Frances de Sales....I initially disagreed, then the seed "took" and I knew he was right.

That's what Spiritual Direction is all about; someone to hold us accountable, to help us understand where we are and to provide balance to an area where balance is required. And for me, I know I need to find that balance in the form of spiritual advice from the male perspective.


God gave us Fathers for a reason; who am I, an ex-feminist, to deny where God is apparently leading me?

My core issue remains, though; I need an SD so badly that I don't want one at all.


** Note: The above painting is Alexandre Cabanel's "Eve After the Fall" **

Friday, February 16, 2007

Spiritual Direction


I really need a Spiritual Director. I had one for awhile, a very short time, and then that ended...I think it was on God's time.

Lately, though, I have been considering this again. I've been doing a lot of spiritual reading, understanding a great many things, and making strides in the spiritual life; both forward and back. Sometimes it's crushing. Sometimes its exhilerating. Sometimes humbling, sometimes...just plain confusing. And mostly, I'm realizing my backslide even if I'm moving forward. It's completely contradictory.

When I first picked up St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, I had to put it down because it made me face myself. And then I picked it up again and devoured it. And then I read his book, Finding God's Will for You. Just check out my sidebar as it lists the books I've most recently read and which have had a strong impact on me and how I think.

I'm at a crossroads; I need direction. I want to advance in the spiritual life, and yet I don't. I'm comfortable in my chosen sins, but I now am educated in that I recognize I need to break my attachments, both "healthy" and unhealthy. I need to find a better way to focus on God, because I do not love God enough.

And you know what's really hard? Although I need and desire a Spiritual Director, I don't want one because he will hold me responsible for myself. He will call me out of my self-love and make me face those things I only read about in the "Devout Life." He will force me to acknowledge where I have gone wrong, and work to change those things.

That is, if he knows what he is doing.

That, and I tend to be emotional, not uncommon for a woman. But if I have to talk about deep spiritual issues, I won't be able to keep from crying, and of course, sometimes tears are a symptom; of pain, of repentance, of healing. And of humility. I don't want to be humbled, as much as I deeply NEED to be humbled! But I don't want to sit in front of a priest I respect (which is ALL the priests I know) and cry my eyes out. And maybe this is what I need, yet it is one of the things I most fear; my emotion. It is all about pride. A few years ago the fear of my emotion was one of the things that kept me from the Sacrament of Confession. Now it is hindering me from literally ASKING someone for Spiritual Direction.

And it is this, above all things, that tells me that perhaps I am ready for an SD and it is time for one. I need guidance with all the recent information I have obtained; how to apply it, how to avoid going off into scrupulosity, how to avoid sliding back, how to advance and become closer to God. How to break attachments without being extreme. How to be responsible for my decisions. How to be truly holy and not just think I am holy. And how to be holy without recognizing my holiness and how much that recogntion would feed into my Pride.

I hate being held to the fire, but that is what I need, and the very cognizance of that is painful.

I don't really want a Spiritual Director, but I need one.

And if I actually find one, I'm terrified of the pain the experience will entail.

I so desperately need an SD that I just as desperately don't want one at all.

This has got to be one of the most ridiculous dilemmas EVER!

And the Winners Are...

...still unofficial.

And I am...(drumroll...........................................)

Not one of them!

No surprise there, but again, I'm thrilled to have even been in the mix this year. A big "THANKS!" goes out to all of you who nominated me and voted for me. That alone is a reward in and of itself and one I never asked for nor expected.

I "met" a lot of great new blogs this year, soon to be added to my sidebar. Our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II would be so proud to see us carry on his directive to use technology to spread the Word of God and the love of Christ throughout the world in such an enterprising way.

So go check out the Unofficial Results of the 2007 Catholic Blog Awards!

I'll update again when the results are official, with all the pomp and circumstance such an event requires.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bread

The piece of bread is still hanging on for dear life to the bush outside my door. It hasn't been claimed by bird nor beast.

And since I'm not quite sure where it came from, I'm not really claiming it, either.

But I'm glad it's there. The crust of bread is comforting.

God provides.

St. George Christian Books and Gifts


It's time to tell you about my supplier.

Once upon a time, a man and a woman married, and they had careers and children. And then one day they realized it was time to live their dream of owning such a store as this. So they gave up their careers and got into the Christian bookstore business...and there they are today.

They are new in the biz, but through this, I have come to know them and call them friends. They have supplied me with books, with recommendations, with incredible artwork, and prayer. Bob and Sharon Balk don't so much see their store as a business, but a mission and a ministry.

I can testify to this; as I became a regular customer and came to know them, they have promised to pray for my intentions, and I have prayed for theirs. I have met them at daily mass, and we trade our spiritual lessons. It's like a little home-town store in the big city. And so often, as I browse, other customers come in and are recognized by name. This is no longer a common thing in the business world, and yet, such a place is so NEEDED in our society.

They do have a small internet site, for those of you who can't get here directly, and if you don't find what you want, you can give them a call.

For those of you in the local area, St. George's is near the corner of Central Av (Hwy 65) in Blaine and Highway 242. From Central, take a left (west) on 242, take your first right onto Ulyssses, and your first left onto...whatever residential street that is. Then take your first left into the parking lot of the little L-shaped strip mall. St. George's is in the corner.

Please do go check out their website, and if it so behooves you, especially if you are local, please put a plug in on your blog or website for this wonderful store. And those of you who may not be local, please still post a link, because as we all know, the internet is the store of the future.

But I would encourage you to go there and experience this home-grown, family-owned Catholic business in person if you are able. They would love to meet you (and sell you a few things!)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

God is Love

I'm a single woman. As such, I'm not a huge fan of this "holiday" the world calls "Valentine's Day" (as though there's not a martyr involved). And even when I was in a relationship, the thing pretty much fell flat. It's pointless. It's all about commercialism, lust, and debauchery, and less about love.

Tonight I'm going to be at the church, teaching the RCIA class about sin. I considered doing a "how-to" class, but then I looked around, considered the "holiday" and realized that all they have to do for a "how-to" primer is turn on the TV or observe some of their friends and family. That's what I always did...that's how I became a sinner. It started from a very young age.

So it's a natural inclination. I realized, then, that my calling as a single woman is to offer my singlehood as a sacrifice to my married RCIA team members; I have no one to offend. So I can talk about sin freely without fear of having to sleep on the couch.

It is a freedom to be single.

And further; we singles have no one to rely on but God. All of us, as members of the mystical Body of Christ, are all the spouse of Christ, cohesively. For we who are single, it is a good day to take a close look at where God is in our lives and turn our hearts back to Him. To recognize the mystical wedding that was the cross, to recognize the sacrifice that promises us eternal life, and to recognize our own obligations to our beloved Savior.

So I, as a single woman, am, in essence, wedded to Christ in a mystical way. And I have it on good authority that the Lord recognizes those of us who embrace our singularity before Him and offer it to Him from our very state in life. We are not all called to Marriage or to the Religious life, which would be a formal vow. No; we singles are spouses in the informal sense; we have a particular calling to serve and a particular relationship with the Lord, should we choose to accept His outstretched hand. We are celibate for the sake of the Kingdom, and even without vows, our acceptance of this state in life is a state very close to God's heart.

This is comforting to me when I consider that, as a single woman, I have nowhere to go in a disaster. Yes, I have my dear friends, and if my house burned down, any number of people I know would take me in in a heartbeat. Just as I would offer my spare room and all I have to a friend in the same circumstance. But my family is not really nearby, and my Mother is not in a position to assist in an emergency. I am truly alone as a single; personally, financially, and sometimes, spiritually.

Yet, I have come to realize, what this means is that my worldly attachments are cut. I have no one to depend upon other than God, and this indeed is a great blessing. I cannot even fathom having people to absolutely "count" upon as do those who are married or have close families.

It is a blessing to have only the Lord, for it is in our worst moments that His glory shines the most. It is through people in my situation who are most able to show the world the true love and Providence of God. That's not to say that He just "saves" us if we are in trouble, but rather, when we have a true need, He sends what is needed to remedy the situation. It gives us a wonderful opportunity to testify to others the great Love of God for even His most humble and unrecognized servants.

We are all, married, unmarried, clergy, religious, beloved of God. All of us have value, all of us have a particular relationship with Him.

Today is a day to remember that wonderful bond. Today is a day to turn towards Jesus and cling to Him with all of our hearts, minds, and strength. He will not leave us bereft. He will not abandon us. He will not deprive us of His mercy.

If you have not already, go to Mass tonight; recieve the Lord in Holy Communion, and ponder the great mystery of God become man in order to die out of love for us. Ponder the very reality that we, as the Church, the Bride of Christ, recieve Jesus in an act which is the consummation of the mystical marriage.

Is there anything more profound than this?

Thy Will be Done


I don't know if this is God's sense of humor, the answer to a prayer, or just plain bad timing.

I took a lukewarm shower this morning. Not as a mortification, but because there didn't seem to be any hot water. I came downstairs, already having a feeling as to what I would find. Yup. The water heater is leaking. I'm fairly certain that this water heater was originally installed in 1984 when my townhome was built.

Last fall, I got a new furnace. Thanks to profit-sharing at my company, that has been paid off. But I was going to use my tax refund to finance a leave of absence from work. Well, that's not going to happen now. In a sense, that IS an answer to a prayer because I offered the work situation to God and asked him, that if He didn't want me to take Leave like this, then to not let it happen. I was to get an answer today from my Manager; now I'll just tell him to cancel the request.

I guess I'm not quitting my job anytime soon, either. Not with the bill this will generate.

But the good news is that since I have to wait for a service person to come out and shut down the heater (I paid for this service with a repair plan; I'm taking advantage!), and I have to do market research in order to find a cost-effective water heater ASAP, I can't go to work today.

I didn't plan to take the day off, and I would prefer not to have to just call in, but the reality is, as I realized last night, all of this is in God's hands, not mine. I have no control over the situation, so I submit to God's will.

Please keep this situation in your prayers; I really can't afford to do this but it could be a lot worse. I could be looking at extensive water damage, and I REALLY can't afford that. So I will accept this and pray it's not worse than it appears.

UPDATE: The service tech was out to turn off the water heater, verified that it does, in fact, need replacement. I spoke with the sales rep and they will get someone out today, by 4 pm.

The good news: I'm home today, looking for a job! Praise God!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

O You of Little Faith!


This evening I had to be at my parish for a meeting, and as I always do, especially in times of adversity, I went into the Adoration chapel to pray and greet my Lord. I didn't even want to go to the Church tonight; I have to finish my outline and work for my talk on sin for tomorrow's RCIA class, and I have an application I want to fill out etc. But I gave my word so I prepared to go.

But that didn't stop me from complaining about it as I let my dogs out before I left my house. I'm stressed, I'm worn out, and "Lord, how long must I wait?", and "Lord, make haste to help me" were psalm-prayers which came to the forefront of my mind. I've been feeling not entirely dry, but really as though God just isn't paying attention. Not that I really so much deserve His attention, big whiny baby that I am, but only that He throw me a bone from His table. I'm not asking for much.

The big hurdle to quitting is financial; I have too many financial obligations and no safety net. I have to keep a roof over my head, a car in the garage, and gas in the tank. Those are basic things, and they aren't cheap.

And I'm worried; no matter what I do, stay or go, there is a different problem to face. (Thus the previous post, thanks to Shakespeare's Hamlet for the inspiration).

So tonight as I grumbled my complaints, I arrived in the chapel and somehow found that quiet spot somewhere in my soul. My complaining was done; I just wanted to be with Jesus. I took out my Magnificat and began to read, beginning with Morning Prayer.

Each and every word spoke to me, and this section in particular:

So do not worry and say, "What are we to eat?" or "What are we to drink?" or "What are we to wear?" (Mt 6:31)

God did not create the world only to abandon it to its own devices. He cares day by day for all that he has made, though we do not always recognize his hand at work.


That cut right to the core. I knelt up straight and paid attention.

Bless the Lord, my soul!
Lord God, how great you are!....

I will sing to the Lord all my life,
make music to my God while I live.
May my thoughts be pleasing to him.
I find y joy in the Lord.
Bless the Lord, my soul.



What a great reminder; as I revealed a few days ago, I wake up every morning praising God, even when I don't want to. Like this morning, I offered a lackluster "Glory to God!" followed by an apology that I didn't feel like praising Him but knew that even in the depths of my misery and dread, it was necessary. Then I went throughout my day complaining, not praising. We cannot complain and praise at the same time; it's simply not possible. We can be miserable and praise, but we cannot be double-tongued.

Reading on...

Mt 6:26-30
Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wold flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. if God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

I think I've been chastized.

Especially when we consider, that last phrase: O you of little faith

Where else do we see this? Where else does Jesus say this?

In the midst of the storm, Jesus slept peacefully in the boat, and the Apostles woke him up. "Can't you see we are dying!". Jesus calmed the storm, rebuked the waves, and chastized the Apostles, saying, "O you of little faith!"

I am in the midst of a storm, and while being buffeted by waves, it is I who rock the boat; Jesus is with me, biding his time. He has not left me; is only asking me to trust.

So tonight, although I'm still stressed, I am somewhat comforted by the divine consolation provided to me in Adoration, while I rested for a moment at the feet of Jesus. He is in charge of this situation; he will not allow the boat to overturn. He is aware of my job, my agony, my concerns, and my lack of faith.

I'm sorry, Jesus.
I love you, I praise you, and I trust you.
Amen.

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer


To quit or not to quit, that is the question—
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous employment,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by resigning, end them. To resign, to sleep in—
No more; and by sleeping in to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That this job is heir to — 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To resign, to sleep in—
To sleep in, perchance to dream. Ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of unemployment what debts may come,
When we have shuffled off to Unempoyment,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long tenure,
For who would bear the whips and scorns of poor management,
Th'oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised work, the HR's delay,
The insolence in the office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th'unworthy takes,
When she herself might her comfort make
With a simple letter? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after resignation,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No ex-employee returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus fear of debt and unemployment does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.

Monday, February 12, 2007

2007 Catholic Blog Awards

I just found out today that I was nominated for the 2007 Catholic Blog Awards!

The categories I was nominated for include:

* Most Spiritual
* Best Written
* Best Individual

Thank you, dear readers. I could never have done it without you. After all, if it weren't for you, I'd be just sitting in front of a computer talking to myself! Because of YOU, I don't have to answer myself, too. What a great blessng.

Please be sure to check out all the great blogs before casting your vote. I intend to find many new blogs for my sidebar this week!

And everyone...remember this is supposed to be FUN!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Just some observations


The piece of breadcrust is still stuck in the bush outside my door. It hasn't been claimed by human nor bird nor squirrel. It did shift position slightly, but it's holding onto the branch for dear life.

I'm becoming quite attached to my own personal breadcrust in a bush.

Next topic...


I took my dogs to the vet on Friday for their shots. While there, I realized that my German Shepherd is shedding already. We've been in the negative temps for weeks now, and this cold snap is really holding on. Quite normal, really, but I'm surprised she is already beginning to blow her undercoat. Not only because it's so cold, but because that doesn't typically start until closer to the end of February, well into March at the earliest.

So I am predicting an early spring. I learned from a very young age to tell the weather from nature around us, because God so ordered the world to react to certain climatic changes before they happen.

For example; I grew up near the Rock River in Illinois, and we used to look at the river to discern what the skies were going to do. A glassy river always made my stomach churn, for it portended a storm. It was the deceptive calm before the storm.

The churning, muddy river meant cloudy weather, but despite the appearance of the water, it was calming to me for I learned this was its latent state. A state of calm.

The river was really into reverse psychology, you see.

And when the ice broke in the spring...well, I wrote about that once. That's when the river was at its most deadly and most destructive. It was always the CRACK! that told us what was about to happen.

Other signals in nature; the animals. Birds returning, sometimes flowers poking through snow. Dogs and other animals shedding their coats, like mine is now.

This is a bit early to shed. Any other pet owners noticing early shedding? I'm just curious, but still, I predict an early spring.


It's just around the corner, y'all!

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Betrayal of Christ


My senior year of High School (public school), I took a Humanities elective and found it to be one of the best classes I ever took! We discussed philosophy, mythology, architecture, theatre, and art.

We were fortunate enough to take a field trip to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, all having recieved a specific assignment, prepared in advance, to discuss at the museum. So in short, we all had the opportunity to play "Docent for a moment".

My assignment was "The Betrayal of Christ" by Flemish artist, Anthony van Dyck.

I remember that although I liked the Baroque style, this particular painting did not GRAB me as others did, so I was disappointed. I was a bit more attracted to the Baroque style of artists such as Caravaggio, Iliya, Rembrandt, and others. I really liked the Flemish artists in general, but this particular painting just didn't seem to fit my "image" of what I wanted them to be.

But I was a good student, so I studied the work and tried to make it interesting to others, as well. And the more I learned, the more I appreciated the painting, even though it wasn't really to my particular taste.

Yet, as I've gotten older, this painting has "haunted" me to a certain extent, for the information I learned for my presentation remained with me and I have often put it to the test as I looked at paintings from a cross-section of styles and centuries.

One of the lessons, first and foremost, was in the colors used. Take a good look at this painting; notice how the color yellow is front and center, and in some ways, completely overshadows everything else. There's a reason for that; yellow is the color of betrayal.

There is no doubt in anyone's mind who the betrayer is in this painting; Judas announces his presence like the revolving cherries on a squad car.

Betrayal is the central theme, and everything else points to it...and yet, we still find a cool center of acceptance, that being Jesus, the Lamb of God, standing upright. Notice that Jesus is the ONLY upright figure in the painting, a center in the storm, and actually leans INTO Judas as he betrays Him. Jesus is clad in royal blue, the symbolism of his status and identity being obvious.

Look also at the other figure clad in blue; Peter, who is in the act of cutting off the ear of the slave of the High Priest. Peter, the rock; to whom the keys of the kingdom of heaven were given. And see how his robes shimmer; for as Jesus is diminishing into the humiliation he is to undergo in such submission, Peter will take the forefront on earth and lead the Church. Such irony For at that time, Peter did not realize what he had been given and his actions were to defend his Lord, whom he would betray three times that very night. Peter did not know who he was or the role he was called to fulfill, and that in order to step into this role, his Savior had to be betrayed. And so the act of betrayal itself takes place behind his back as he focuses on the immediate, in typical Simon-Peter style, completely missing the point.

As an aside; I am certain Peter is one of my closest patrons.

We have to look to the rest of the painting as well, for it is all focused on the most imporant action, that of the kiss of betrayal. The cowardly, deceitful, betraying yellow, and Christ, in his calm blue of acceptance, framed on one side by the attack and on the other, the red to symbolize his Passion, the blood yet to be shed. For love never comes without a cost, without a ransom of blood.

And yet He stands, the cool center, accepting the onslaught of the soldiers, the torch waving towards him, the tree branch arching overhead, the foot of the downed slave pointing to His betrayer, the diagonal lines all pointing towards this pivotal moment.

And, as I learned, as typical in Baroque art, the right lower corner of the painting is left bare; so to invite we, the viewers, into it so that we can better contemplate the image up close and personal. Another characteristic of this style was the inherent drama; the main drama (Judas kissing Jesus in the act of betrayal) is triangulated by Peter and Malchus, the slave, and the Roman Soldiers leaning inward for the arrest. A fallen lantern contrasts with the torch above to create the lighting for the scene, again highlighting the drama of light and shadow which so emphasizes the action taking place before our very eyes. We can almost hear the creackling of the flames, the breaking glass of the lantern, the shouts of the soldiers, the whistle of Peter's sword, and the calm sound of Jesus asking Judas, "You would betray the Son of Man with a kiss?"

Amazing to me that I started out disappointed in this image; and now, how many years later, I have been seeking this very painting! My appreciation and understanding have grown over the years, and even though I have not maintained a study in art, my greater comprehension of theology has enhanced what little I know of art, and thus I am completely captivated by this image. Not only can I enter into the image, but I understand that I am Judas, or perhaps I am Peter, or the slave whose ear is being cut off. Or maybe I am the Roman Soldier with the torch, crying out orders to the onrush for the arrest of Jesus.

St. Ignatius, in his Spiritual Exercises, encouraged us to use our natural creativity in order to enter into contemplative prayer. He encouraged choosing a Bible verse and casting ourselves as characters in order to better enter into the scene. Take the scene of the betrayal of Christ, and "cast" yourself there, into the right lower corner where the Baroque style provides a conveniet doorway. Read this section in any or all of the Gospels, and find a painting portraying the Betrayal that invites you; prayer is not just about words and dialogue. Prayer is a conversation with God, but how can we converse with him if we have not taken the time to fully engage with His conversation with us?

Such art is a great gift to us; it can be a sacramental, that which leads us further into the mystery of Christ and His Glorious Passion. Take some time and find an image that speaks to you; if it is classic art such as this, read about it understand it, and then take it within the context of the Holy Scriptures and allow yourself to be transformed and captured within, so that you, too, may find a way to enter into the great gift of meditative and contemplative prayer.

Warm and Fuzzy Jesus? Not so much

This is the second point made by the anonymous commenter referred to in my previous post. (Long post alert!)

2. During the time of Jesus, homosexuality and abortion were just as prevalant then as they are now. Plato and Aristotle, who lived 500 years before Jesus, talk about abortion. Homosexuality and pederasty were a notable part of Greek (e.g. Plato's Symposium) and Roman (e.g. Suetonius' Lives of the Caesars) culture. But yet how much does Jesus himself say about these issues? Virtually nothing. What Jesus *does* talk about is being renouncing your possessions, helping the poor, being unmaterialistic, etc.

Good point, unfortunately not very well grounded in reality and easily decimated by simple logic, early Church documents, and the Bible (which this commenter clearly has not actually read).

Let's remember, first of all, that Jesus came to save sinners. So the fact that all this death and immorality was going on in the time of Jesus only underscores what He did for us on the cross.

Plato and Aristotle were pagans and thus they got to make up their own "moral" code. Not everything they did or said was wrong, but using their error to justify immoral behavior in any age isn't exactly appropriate. The fact that they lived in a time of a decadent culture and thus had the attitudes of that culture is not a bit surprising. Suggesting that their attitudes and teachings on abortion, homosexuality, pederasty, validate such things makes no sense whatsoever.

The Catholic Church has ALWAYS taught against abortion and other immoral anti-life acts. The Didache , which is the Lord's teachings through the Apostles, clearly discusses these things:

Chapter 2.—The Second Commandment: Gross Sin Forbidden
1. And the second commandment of the Teaching; 2. You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, Exodus 20:13-14 you shall not commit p├Žderasty, you shall not commit fornication...


Chapter 5.—The Way of Death
1. And the way of death is this: First of all it is evil and full of curse: murders, adulteries, lusts, fornications, thefts, idolatries, magic arts, witchcrafts, rapines, false witnessings, hypocrisies, double-heartedness, deceit, haughtiness, depravity, self-will, greediness, filthy talking, jealousy, over-confidence, loftiness, boastfulness; 2. persecutors of the good, hating truth, loving a lie, not knowing a reward for righteousness, not cleaving to good nor to righteous judgment, watching not for that which is good, but for that which is evil; from whom meekness and endurance are far, loving vanities, pursuing requital, not pitying a poor man, not labouring for the afflicted, not knowing Him that made them, murderers of children, destroyers of the handiwork of God, turning away from him that is in want, afflicting him that is distressed, advocates of the rich, lawless judges of the poor, utter sinners. Be delivered, children, from all these


Abortion and Homosexuality was wrong in the time of Plato and Aristotle, it was wrong when Jesus walked the earth, after He died and rose again, these acts have REMAINED wrong and they remain wrong today. And the Church has always been consistent in these teachings, in spite of bad Popes and other Church heirarchy who lost their way. Saying that these things happened in history as a way of justification for today's immorality is simply not an argument at all.

Moving on to the next point, all about the idea of an "I'm ok, you're ok Jesus":

As to what Jesus said, let's look to the Bible and let's stop taking it out of context to support the popular "wishy-washy" Jesus people WISH existed. Jesus was very clear in his moral teachings; the fact that people choose not to read what He actually did or said speaks more to the ignorance of those who only want to be comfortable in their favorite sins. Jesus did not want people to be comfortable with their sins; he demanded that sinfulness be renounced!

The most common section people cite in wishy-washy-ness fashion is the adulterous woman who was about to be stoned. Jesus said, “Let those without sin cast the first stone.” No one does, and Jesus said to the woman, “Has no one condemned you? Nor do I.”

Everyone likes to use this phrase to consider the comforting thought of forgiveness. And indeed, Jesus forgives, but not without a strong caveat

Jesus said to the woman, “Go….and SIN NO MORE.”

Jesus clearly condemned sexual immorality. Perhaps he did not speak specifically of homosexuality, but he didn’t need to as he was discussing sexual immorality in general. It would be commonly understood he was speaking to all people of all sexual proclivities, all sinful tendencies. He often emphasized the impurity that comes from within.

Matthew 5:18-23

18 He said to them, "Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile,
19 since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.)
20 "But what comes out of a person, that is what defiles.
21 From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
23 All these evils come from within and they defile.
"


So you see, Jesus is discussing those things that defile a person, commonly known today as "sin". We sin from within for our sin comes from our own human nature and our choice to sin. Unchastity, adultery, licentiousness...all this applies to all people, regardless of what they think their sexual orientation happens to be.

Let’s look at another section in the Bible, where Jesus develops this even further:

Matthew 5:27

27 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.'
28 But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.
31 "It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.'
32 But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.


Especially check out Matthew 23;23- 39; it is a long section, so pick it up and read it, but I found this quote to be especially enlightening:

(Ignatius RSV-CE) MT 23:33:

“You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?”

Wow. That really takes away the “warm and fuzzy” idea about Jesus, doesn’t it? In the first section, (Matthew 5:27) he’s really driving home the point that we are judged for our willful sins, such that if we find that they are habitual it is better to remove the offending appendage or organ rather than face judgment and be thrown into Hell.

Admittedly, Jesus is speaking in hyperbole in order to make a point; He does not want us to mutilate ourselves or lop off appendages. What he is doing is driving home the point of the gravity of the sins he is describing.

Then, in Matthew 23, He is going so far as to warn people that if they persist, they are not going to be able to avoid hell.

People, rather than persist in saying that Jesus did not condemn certain behaviors, please save yourself some embarassment, pick up the Bible and really READ what it says. Instead of reading what you want to read, if you are truly seeking God, then SEEK GOD and look for the TRUTH. Don’t waste everyone else’s precious time on this earth trying to change the Bible to fit your justification of your favorite sin.

Any of us can "justify" anything we want; but it will NEVER, not in a million years, make our behavior good and natural and moral.

Jesus indeed preached love, understanding, forgiveness, and against materialism, however, those teachings need to be understood in full context. Jesus came and died for our sins in a very horrible death; He did not do this to allow us to wallow in depravity. Rather, he taught us to renounce depravity and follow him! To live lives of virtue. He spoke of fraternal correction, for it is not loving to allow another to persist in a life of sin, a depravity that seperates that person from God.

One day we will all face our own personal judgment, and Jesus will not hold us accountable only for our actions, but whether we took the time to assist others in the pits they have dug for themselves.

Disordered Inclinations versus Disordered Behavior

A commenter recently left a note on my post, "Sex and Marriage are Sacred". And although I responded, I felt that this really deserves to be addressed in its own post. I will not quote the entire comment, but I will respond to the pertinent parts. I provided the link to the post so all can go read the full context of the post and this anonymous person's response. There were actually two parts; I will address the second point in a seperate post.

1. You say "There is NOTHING natural about homosexual sex." But homosexuality and homosexual sex occurs all throughout nature. 8% of sheep are gay (cf. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/25/science/25sheep.html). There are gay penguins (cf. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/02/07/MNG3N4RAV41.DTL).
Just because something occurs in 8% of the population doesn't make it "unnatural." If 8% of the world's population were caucasian, does that mean caucasians are "unnatural"?


First of all, the reality is that this commenter obviously has not been able to discern the difference between an inclination and acting out on the inclination. My post was about the actual behavior of human beings. It is simply a straw-man argument to suggest that just because sheep hump each other and engage in what appears to be homosexual activity, that it justifies human behavior. Additionally, suggesting that voluntary behavior is tatamount to racial statistics is just completely illogical. It has no place in this conversation.

People, if you are using the argument that it's ok to engage in unnatural sexual acts because sheep do it, then you have a major problem. Suggesting that it's "natural" because dogs do it is not a logical argument. If you want to use that argument, then I would also like to see you bend over and clean your rear end as a dog does, I would also like to know if you support eating your young, as this also occurs in the "natural world", and I'm very curious as to whether you fully consume your sexual partner after being impregnated as does the black widow.

We are human beings. We sometimes have disordered inclinations such as same sex attraction, alcoholism, kleptomania, etc. The Catholic Church teaches that we ALL have some sort of disordered inclination: it's often referred to as "Concupiscence", that is, the inclination to sin.

So let's define this term, "inclination" (taken from Dictionary.com):

–noun 1. a disposition or bent, esp. of the mind or will; a liking or preference: Much against his inclination, he was forced to resign.

2. something to which one is inclined: In sports his inclination is tennis.

3. the act of inclining; state of being inclined.

4. a tendency toward a certain condition, action, etc.: the door's inclination to stick.

5. deviation or amount of deviation from a normal, esp. horizontal or vertical, direction or position.


It can safely be said, then, that it is a natural part of our human condition to have the inclination towards sin, which are acts contrary to God's divine order. Thus, the inclination towards homosexuality in and of itself is not a sin; it is simply a tendency towards sin. It is only upon acting upon that tendency that it becomes a sin. So, a logical person can see that there is a difference between a latent state of inclination versus the kinetic activity enacting up the inclination.

As human beings, we have a choice; we can recognize our tendencies and resist them so as to continue to be unified with God and His will, or we can act upon our sinful inclinations and seperate ourselves from the Lord. To act upon something contrary to God's will is unnatural, disordered, and it is a SIN. Pure and simple. Thus, homosexual behavior is unnatural and disordered.

We have the ability to reason and maintain self-control, even in the face those strong tendencies towards a certain type of behavior. We have the ability to understand the consequences of our behavior; personal, social, moral consequences. We do not have to look to animal behavior in order to see what is natural or unnatural in a human. To do so is complete folly.

Animals do not act according to a moral code; they act according to instinct. If they happen to have an inclination towards disordered behavior, then it is simply an abnormality. Animals cannot sin. Only human beings can sin, and only human beings can respond to a reasoned moral code and know right from wrong. To suggest that our inclinations and resultant behavior is "natural" is not only ignorant, but it is willfully illogical and completely contrary to our dignity as human beings.

We cannot look to animals to validate our willful human behavior.