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Monday, April 30, 2007

To Change a Life

When I was a little girl, I was painfully shy. I realize that people who know me find this shocking, but I have story after story about how I wouldn't speak to people, how I would hide behind Mom or Dad when meeting even beloved relatives, how I would literally HIDE behind furniture in order to avoid greeting people.

When I went to school, I was just as shy and reserved. I preferred to be by myself. Talking to new people was terrifying, and I only developed friendships slowly, usually initiated by them.

In the classroom, I was quiet, I didn't speak up, I didn't cause trouble, and my report card frequently noted some version of the idea that I was a daydreamer. Yet they also noted I was a good student, but not working to my potential. I always had good grades in reading and spelling, always had bad grades in Math. But my average was a "C" and so I slipped by in my solitude, allowed to glide along because I was neither the brightest nor was I the opposite, a student in need of constant attention.

Some teachers noticed on occasion that I simply wasn't being challenged, so they challenged me, I always hated it...but I always took something away from the experience that took me to a deeper level.

In fourth grade, I couldn't seem to find a good book in the library. I happened to be afraid of experimentation, didn't want a book I wouldn't like so I ended up choosing something I'd read before - twice. My teacher caught it, grabbed a book off the shelf and ordered me to read it.

It was "Wild Violets" and that book became a beloved friend. If anyone has a copy of it they want to get rid of...let me know! I will either ask you for it or demand that you read it carefully!

In fifth grade, we moved and I had to get used to a new school. It was like kindergarten all over again and everyone was in some sort of clicque. But I didn't really mind...not having friends gave me more time to read. But slowly, I got to know a few people and I was better at coming out of my shell.

My fifth grade teacher recognized my attraction to the written word and helped me along. That year, we had to submit an essay to the local newspaper as part of a writing assignment. Our town had six elementary schools, and they chose the best essays from among them. I won first place and my award was to not only have my essay published in the paper, but I got to ride on a float in the Heritage Days Parade!

Then came 6th grade. That teacher had a reputation. She knew it, she wore it well, and she set the limits on the first day and let us know that all the rumors were true.

She was also the first to notice that I had been allowed to slack off every grade up to that point, and she wasn't having any of it. It started off with a lecture to the class about what Jr. High would be like and she was going to make sure we were prepared.

There was no more daydreaming in class...there were consequences for that. There was no more bad handwriting. She literally made me move my desk into the hallway for two weeks and re-write assignments. I was only allowed to join the class for class lectures, but the moment it was time for time to do the work, I was in the hallway and she had to approve the handwriting on everything before I turned it in.

I'd like to say this lesson stuck, but only until I got to Jr. High, and then my handwriting degenerated again and it was suggested I should become a doctor.

She also enrolled me in "Great Books", sort of an in-school program that took us out of class to discuss writings and authors that went beyond the regular level. It was meant to challenge us and it did. We'd be given an assignment each week, read it, and come back the following week to discuss what we'd read. It was the first time I'd ever been included in with the "smart kids" and it took me totally by surprise.

Prior to sixth grade, I'd only been "average" or maybe "below-average". But Ms. Beatty recognized something in me that had been missed previously, and even as she beat my bad habits out of me, she elevated my talents. To this day, I firmly believe I would not be where I am without her encouragement, as painful as it was.

When I went to Jr. High, I was ready to be there and was blessed from then on with a host of wonderful teachers, some better than others. It was hard to be one of the "smart kids" at that point in my life, but thanks to one teacher who recognized that I had potential, I didn't let the culture get to me.

I'll admit I still slacked off...if I wasn't challenged and MADE to do what I had to do, I settled for a "B" in a class. In an English class, we had the option to choose a grade. I actually chose a "B" for that project because I was not interested in what was being read for an "A". I made my choice consciously, got my "B" very easily but in the process, disappointed my teacher. She knew I could do better, and so did I; but then, just as now, I liked to take the easy route.

I graduated in the top quarter of my high school class. I graduated in the top third of my college class; I could have done better but admittedly, in the courses that didn't interest me, I only did enough to get by. I do not encourage this trait. And Ms. Beatty could only do so much, back in sixth grade. I will say this, though; because of her, I KNEW when I was slacking off, and I did so consciously.

Now here I am, entering Graduate school. I know that I am being academically challenged, I'm fascinated by what I'm learning, and I'm also completely undisciplined. I'm not likely to find Ms. Beatty in a grad school classroom. Somewhere, in all this, she has remained with me, though, for I have worked hard this spring on my one class, not wanting to succomb to mediochraty. But without discipline, I will not be able to do next semester what I have done with this class. Sometimes, as painful as it was to be forced to take responsiblity, I wish there was still someone around to make me live up to my potential.

But that's part of being an adult; we can't rely on others to have our best interests at heart anymore. The teachers we grew up with are not there anymore; they gave us what they had, they did what they could, and they passed us on to the next level. It's up to us to remember their lessons and continue to embrace them, even well into adulthood.

It doesn't take much to change a life. I thank God for Ms. Beatty and all my other teachers who didn't let me slide on by. Had they not recognized my abilities as well as my faults, I would have been lost forever. What would have become of me?

Take some time to remember those teachers who helped you realize who you really are, and who taught you, even in subtle ways, not to settle for the status quo, but rather, to reach for new heights no matter how much it hurts to get there.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Our God is a God of Miracles

I believe in miracles because I am both the product and the subject of a miracle.

Shortly after she was married, Mom was told that she would never have children. But, in defiance of the great god Science, she conceived and bore a son, and called him her firstborn. And Heaven rejoiced.

Then, two years later, roughly, she conceived and bore a daughter. Either before or during her gestation, Roe v. Wade passed and so people were embolded to approach her to say unspeakable things. Mom and Dad both suffered from visible genetic defects; Mom was born with only one hand, Dad had Spina Biffeda. So while Mom's belly was swollen with me, she was attacked with great hatred by the culture of death that suggested remorselessly that she murder her child in deference to their preference to live in a world without such imperfection as herself.

I can't imagine the anguish this must have caused my mother. That alone should qualify her as a martyr and speed her canonization.

So then I was born, and Heaven rejoiced. But alas, I was born with a very lazy eye, turned so far inward that as I got older, the doctors told my Mom I would never have depth perception, I would never be able to so much as stack blocks. Mom was devastated, but she opted not to kill me although certain factions of culture would have liked to see such a thing occurr.

I still remember an eye doctor appointment during which I heard the word "surgery". I remember the doctor discussing with my mother how certain muscles would be cut and reattached, the risks (which I did not understand) and the probability for success. The appointment was set for a few days or couple weeks later. It was to be a simple surgery, apparently.

I remember going to Mom's friend's house the day before my scheduled surgery. Mom's friends' name was Barb, and she was about Mom's height, a little older, and she had dark wavy, short hair. She was very friendly and talked a lot. They had a split-level home with blue carpeting and nice furniture. They were nice people and they had a littl girl a bit younger than me and sent us off to play together. That little girl was as blue as the carpet.

Mom explained to me later that she was sick and wasn't going to be in this world for very long. (Many years later I learned her diagnosis; Congenital heart disease. She was a "blue baby"). That little girl actually lived far longer than she was "supposed to."

I remember a certain sense of peace about her, as though she knew she was dying, but it didn't diminish her life. She was just like every other little girl everywhere, but for her blue color and her need to rest a little more often.

While we were there, she and I were called into the livingroom where all the adults were, including some other people I'd never seen before. I seem to remember people exclaiming over us and my lazy eye.

I was a very very shy child, hated to be the center of attention, and did my best to not be noticed. But since my new blue friend was with me, I felt better because they were making much out of her as well. There is solidarity in such things.

The group of adults stood in a circle around us, and I remember Barb praying for healing for us. Other people spoke up, too. I hated being there and I made faces at my new friend to release some tension. She was very used to this so didn't understand my discomfort, and stared back at me soberly. I took a cue from her and stopped, enduring the embarassment of so many people paying attention to me at once.

Shortly after that, and maybe some hugs from our new friends, and promises to return, we left.

I remember holding Mom's hand as we went to the hospital where I was prepped for surgery.

There was a quick pre-op exam, and the doctor stood up and called for someone else. They left the room. They came back, checked again, and told Mom that surgery was not necessary.

I remember walking out with Mom, not understanding my sense of relief, not understanding Mom's wonderment. I was completely oblivious to what had happened.

Mom wasn't.

It was a bona-fide miracle. My condition, which had been monitored since my birth, was not a self-correcting type of condition. I literally needed surgery to turn my eye straight.

But overnight, the condition was corrected to the degree that surgery was not needed.

I actually always thought that Barb and her family and friends were Charismatic Catholics, because sometime around then, Mom had taken us to a Charismatic prayer meeting. I only learned last weekend that they were actually Assembly of God.

I have been pondering this and considering whether this new information affects my perspective in any way.

I've decided it has not. Rather, I am coming to a new understanding of true ecumanism, in fact, the true meaning of it. I do not remember that they were trying to convert us. It seemed there was a great deal of mutual respect for our religious beliefs and theirs, and through their concern for their children, these adults bonded over what was common and addressed God in unity.

I think only a suffering mother can relate to another suffering mother, and those prayers are powerful.

I was healed that day. I found out that about a year later, that other little girl died. I also seem to remember her praying for me with her family.

I am humbled, and I pray that this little girl is in Heaven, praying for me still for I sense that her prayers are powerful.

Do not fear to believe in miracles; they happen every day, to people all over the world.

I am typing these words today not through braille, but through living eyes, a sense of sight Mom was told I would never have. These very words are the result of a miracle.

Thank you, God, for this gift of sight. Thank you, God, for Mom's gift of faith. Thank you, God. for Barb and her family/friend's gifts of faith and prayer, and thank you, God, every day, for the gifts of holy friendship.

Like the little children

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Shadow and the Glory of the Cross

I have been limping this road to Calvary for a very long time, even before I knew that this was the road I travelled. And today, even as I saw the Glory, I felt the cold shadow of the Cross fall upon me.

I had my interview for AMU's Institute for Pastoral Theology this afternoon. The interview was set yesterday, but unbeknownst to me, I had been scheduled to attend a "web conference" at the very same time. As I told my co-workers, "too bad, I'm busy", my phone rang at 1:00 on the dot: because Professor Bushman is, as he says, "very German."

The interview went well, and as he's already had me in his class and thus is familiar with my work as well as some interaction during class, our conversation was helped along. It was the most interesting interview I've ever had and it was the most productive lunch hour I've ever spent!

And at the end of it, he officially welcomed me to the IPT program as an MTS (Masters in Theological Studies) grad student.

The financial discussion was part of it: IPT offers a 1/3 scholarship for those who take the full course load of 6 credits. I explained my current situation, planning to leave my job, unknown what this new one might pay IF it is meant for me, etc, and the fact that even if I were in my same position, I would struggle to cover the costs. So the scholarship is awarded, first under merit by virtue of my first papers as well as application/interview impression, and secondly, financial need. I am to let him know if circumstances change. Agreed.

The finances have always been in question, and long ago I entrusted this to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I will not falter now. Now that I'm accepted formally, I'm one step closer, and the next step has yet to be discerned. All money belongs to God, so if He wills this for me on behalf of his Kingdom, then it will be done.

I had referred to the shadow of the Cross, and just after this interview and the subsequent joy, the shadow fell over me. It has always been there, but it is the nature of shadows that we pass through them (or do they pass through us?).

First it was about some file reviews for work. I have been struggling for a long time and I took sudden vacation in March to deal with the burnout that nearly made me literally walk off the job. I have a good Manager, he and my direct Supervisor knew I was burned out, and they have done what they can to help. But I am struggling and even though I am working myself to death, I can't seem to meet the numbers. Not in any category. My most recent Personnnel Evaluation was disastrous. I was once one of the top performers, even broke a record...and now I have fallen so low!

And even though I desperately want to quit this job, and even though I think being fired would be merciful, that pride within me struggles for I have put nearly 5 years into this company, I have lost nearly 5 years of my life working in this position, and it is physically painful to think of walking out in shame rather than triumph. But I have to wonder if that very humiliation is what is being asked of me?

During Holy Week, especially on Holy Thursday, a prayer that continued to come to me until I prayed it over and over was "Let me be crucified with you. Let me die with you." I didn't want to pray that prayer, but I had to obey.

That prayer is being answered, and the shadow of it is chilling to the bone.

Just after my interview, I brought the requested files into my superiors, and only about 20 minutes later, I was called into a closed door meeting. I knew without a doubt the judgment to which I was walking.

En route, I came across a mother and her son, and had to go around them. I cannot help but be struck by their presence in my path.

I entered, and was bidden to close the door and be seated. My Manager before me across the desk, my supervisor to my right, I got "the lecture." This is the talk given to all those who are sliding and can't seem to get up. This is supposed to be redeeming, but, in reality, when most of us get to this point, it's actually a sign of things to come.


As my Manager spoke, I nodded, held back the tears, the agony, the humiliation, and reminded myself to keep my eyes on the Cross. I refused to let go of the Joy of my recent news, and the Hope of another job; I listened, nodded, responded, and endured. This is happening by God's will.

My Manager went into a spiel about how this is not personal, he and they all really like me, want me to stay, he sees me as the "spark plug" that usually keeps everyone going and they recognize that I'm at a very low point. I was actually shocked that, even though since my vacation my demeanor has been much better, apparently my burnout is still all too apparent, especially to those whose job it is to review my work.

They know I'm working hard. They know that I'm not consciously throwing my career away. They know I'm struggling and they know it's out of character for me.

My Manager reiterated that he will write me references, no matter how many hoops he has to jump through to get it approved through HR.

Of course, at this point, now I'm crying, and that kills me because I have always been an emotionally-driven person but keep it, especially tears, under wraps when in a professional environment. The only other time I have cried at work was when I learned of my Grandmother's death. I have to tell him to stop because he's making me cry, and I turn it into a joke, saying, "This is what girls do!"

Somehow, though, even in their humiliation, the tears were freeing. I am who I am, not the robot the company wants me to be.

They gave me examples of others, including themselves, who have hit rock bottom but were brought back and found their niche, and they were trying to encourage me to stay.

They are aware of a possible pending job, they are aware of the direction my life seems to be taking, and they are happy for me...but they still have to do their job, which involves an impending disciplinary action, based on performance, which will eventually lead to termination.

I told them very candidly that I am leaving, no matter how they try to make the job "better." I explained that I am trying to move on to something I'm truly good at.

My Manager told me, "You ARE good at this!"

I told him, no, I'm not. I've been trying to overcome my natural weakness for nearly 5 years; this isn't my area. It's never been my area. It's never been my gift..

He told me that if I ever get to the point that I really can't do this anymore, they'll understand, he'll help in any way he can and he wants to see me happy.

I explained that this is what I'm telling him; I CAN'T do this anymore. This job is all about numbers, and structure, and absolutes. It's not that I don't need structure for I do, but worst subjects, and for almost 5 years they have ruled my life and the measure of my worthiness in my employment. And it's a losing battle. I can't overcome this weakness. I have given all I can, and I can't do it any more. I'm worn out. It's not who I was designed to be.

I have to go. It's time.

I gave him the time frame for the position for which I'm interviewing, but said that whether I get the job or not, I'm leaving. I will give notice, but I won't be staying. They agree that I'm not a slacker, he told me that he thinks I have a lot more character than that, and we discussed the remedial consequences of my present failings that I will be addressing with them in the next few weeks.

These are the dreaded "short-term objectives."

I have met Pilate...and I have been passed to Herod.

How will Herod judge me?

I know that God is opening doors before me, even as this one is slamming shut. He is calling me to something else, and I know that what is happening now MUST happen because there is no other choice. I know that ultimately there is glory in this, but I am having a very difficult time in seeing it, and so I am trying to walk in absolute trust.

Yes, there is hope with the potential new job, but is that my place? Is that where I'm being sent and for what God has been preparing me? Or is the interview only a stepping stone and is my current crisis a valley of death through which I must pass before I meet even a bigger Cross with a different type of Glory?

I knew this was coming, for with great consolations come great trials, and this trial is very real, very dark, very ominous, and very final. I've seen this place before, but this is the first time I've seen it through eyes unified with those of Jesus.

I flee to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, because, like Jesus, I have seen the shadow of the Cross and the suffering it entails, and I must go somewhere for comfort and for assistance. She knows of this Cross and where it leads, and even knowing the ultimate Glory, she is united in her own maternal suffering. So I flee to her, and I beg for her intercession and assistance.

The shadow of the Cross is so cold...but without passing through this, there will be no resurrection and no revelation.

Our Lady of Perpeutal Help, pray for me!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The greatest of these is Love

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
2 And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
3 If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated,
5 it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
6 it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
9 For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
11 When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
12 At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
13 So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

34When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,
35 and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking,
36 "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"
37 He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
38 This is the greatest and the first commandment.
39 The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

I just had a revelation. One of the things that was stated tonight by one of our newly-Confirmed Catholics struck a chord, and I just realized that I've gotten the greatest lesson that could ever be learned. I don't think anything will ever top this. It's so simple, and so obvious, and so profound that I am literally in tears.

He didn't become Catholic this year because of what any of us SAID. He didn't make his committment because of anything we DID. Although he had questions that were answered during the course of the year, that's not what convinced him, either.

He became Catholic because we love God, and he could see that. He saw God's love in us, expressed through us, and he knew he was home.

So even when we perhaps spoke incorrectly, or when we didn't know the answer, or said or did the wrong thing, it didn't matter. God's love overcame our weaknesses and shone through.

The MOST IMPORTANT thing any of us can EVER do is to love God...and He will do the rest.

Blessings, Smoke, and Fire

It's been quite a day. The good, the bad, the boring, the's been a roller coaster and now I'm not tired anymore although I've been tired most of the day.

The blessings hit sometime this afternoon, and they just kept rolling.

First I was called to set up my interview for Ave Maria, the last step of the application process. That means they have all my paperwork in and the recommendations from my references. God bless them! My interview (via phone) is tomorrow.

Then I got home from work to a voice mail from the church I'm applying to...and my first interview is set for next Thursday. Oh, the agony! I can't even prepare for this kind of interview. There will be another interview the following week, that one more formal, and then I'll know if I got the job or not the following week.

Tonight was our last RCIA gathering; we went to Mass and then had a potluck afterwards. But our actions in the kitchen before Mass caused us to nearly burn down the Church while we attended Mass.


While we were obliviously at Mass, praying, worshiping, something was going on in the kitchen. I don't know who, but someone apparently with a key smelled smoke so went into the meeting rooms and saw a haze. He or she or they (I dunno) went into the kitchen area just in time to see a cookie tray in flames on the top of the stove!

Thank God they came by!

The person who put the plastic tray there was only trying to move it out of the way, not realizing tht this particular model of industrial gas stove has exposed pilot lights, which, of course, happened to enjoy the fuel of plastic and other fun things it could consume.

By the time we left Mass, that person had opened the doors and the smoke had cleared although we could smell something had burned.

Thanks to the Guardian Angel in charge of our parish! And thanks to the person who happened by and stopped the disaster!

It was otherwise a blessed night, our new Catholics and our sponsors had a great time, and my heart is so full right now. I'm so grateful to have been a part of this (not the nearly-burning the church down part). I just love those in the class, they were a great group and I learned so much from them. I heard so many encouraging words from them tonight. Even though it's been a big committment and a lot of work (some weeks more than others), this has been SO WORTH IT and I'm looking forward to next year's group of pending Catholics!

In "Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White, there is a line uttered by Wilbur, something along the lines of, "When your stomach is empty and your mind is full, it's always hard to sleep."

Well, for me, my stomach is full (these people can COOK!), my mind is full and my heart is full. And even though I'm exhausted, I haven't felt so joyful in a very long time. God is so good.

May God bless all of you even more abundantly than He has blessed me today.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

I keep hearing about how men are fleeing the Church, how men are not involved in worship, how men of today find the Church to be too feminized.

I agree that it seems to be women who run almost everything, and historically it has been women who lead men into the faith. We seem to have that power, but is this a surprise? For wasn't it Eve who lead Adam, even though it was Adam who was created first?

This is part of the gift of femininity; we have an affinity for God, for contemplative communication, a need to be nurtured so that we, in turn, can be nurtured.

But somehow, this beautiful gift of God has become warped, and what we are seeing today has to do with the introduction of the demonic ideology of radical feminism.

The Church has become overly - feminized in a political manner, completely divorced from the true function of the Church and completely ruptured from the true meaning and representation of feminism. What we see today is a host of innovative liturgies, citing "Vatican II", which clearly speaks against innovation and, in fact, the document "Sacrosanctum Concilium" was written to reform the innovations that had appeared in what is now referred to as the Tridentine Mass.

This current dysfunction has everything to do with rejection of Tradtion, rejection of Truth, rejection of all that is Holy in favor of all that is "here now, gone tomorrow." It has been the radical feminists who have introduced New Age components into the churches and liturgies we now witness or experience. We hear references to "Gaia", God as a "she", and "homilies" by lay women crying out for female ordination, betraying the poor catechesis and lack of understanding of the solid theology of the Church. We see an outright rejection of the beauty of true human sexuality, resulting in a disordered objectification of immoral sexual union outside of the sacredness of marriage as a replacement for understanding of human dignity.

We see that the "feminization" of the Church is nothing but a twisted deception, for the Church, at her nature, has ALWAYS been feminine, for the soul of the Church is Marian. The soul of the Church projects us all as the Bride of Christ, of which Mystical Wedding was consummated upon the Cross. It is the place of the Church as a whole to be receptive to Christ, who gives everything for us, thus for we, His Bride, to give fully of ourselves.

Not so surprising, then to see in the actions of radical feminism so prolific today, the rejection of authority, of Christ, of God the Father, by those who also reject life through use of contraception, who advocate the slaughter of children in the womb. We see a complete rejection of all of the holiness of womanhood. We see a full rejection of all things feminine as women seek to make themselves "equal" to men, although their definition of "equality" is more synonymous with androgyny.

I've been hearing for most of my life about the "mysogynist" tendencies of the Church, about how "patriarchial and oppressive" the Church is, but over time, I have come to see how those very terms apply more to the resulting tyranny of women who have followed Eve and listened to the lie of the serpent, set to lead Adam into the sin that rejected us all from the Garden of Eden.

For you see, the Serpent went after Eve because he knew that if he had her, he had Adam. Eve actually resisted the serpent, seeing his lie, and responded with the he dug deeper and lead her into temptation and sin. If you read Genesis again, you'll see that Adam didn't even bat an eye. Rather, he simply accepted what he was given without question.

What a lesson. We see the gift of man and woman here; we see as we do even today how, although men have strength and leadership, it is the women who build them up and bring them down. Our roles are complimentary, and our powers cannot be abused, for when they are, we see the actual de-feminization of the Church proclaimed under the guise of "feminization".

The Church has always been feminine in nature; from the music, the trappings, the contemplation and mysticism, the beauty and serenity in architecture and in liturgical practice. Amazingly, men have also been drawn into this, as they cannot help but be drawn into the mantle of Our Lady who comforts them and gives them the strength they need to be true men after the example of Christ.

What we see today, however, are churches stripped of beauty, music divested of devotion and artistry, lyrics which sing to the people and not to the God we are there to worship. We see a complete de-personalization of Truth. We see bland, lackluster worship which cries out for innovation. We see masculinity in style rather than what is intended, that of the trappings of the Bride waiting to receive her Beloved.

Ironically, the radical feminists, under the guise of their ideology, have put our Mother Mary into the back seat, choosing to ignore her humble fiat in favor of seeking the secular understanding of power in the form of "ordination" and their misguided sense of "participation" stemming from their misreading and misinterpretation of Vatican II documents.

The Church has, as a result, actually been stripped of her feminine nature, which has resulted in the mass exodus of many worshippers, especially men. Men who are Marian remain and become involved as defenders of the feminine, which is what they are wired to be. But when the feminine mystery is stripped from the Church, what is left to defend? Where is the honor and the beauty? Where is the purity? Why should the men remain when there is nothing apparent to identify the Bride as what she is? Why defend an androgynous anomoly? From what?

These are strong words, but I state them as truth: Radical Feminism has penetrated and defiled the Church and has left her violated and bereft. Is there any surprise, then, that men are not engaging in worship? The very violence of the rape of the culture, the destruction of the feminine mystery, the propagation of death in secularity has invaded the Church and has violated us. Can we really be surprised that our Churches which have come to mimic secular "values" are no longer a haven to men or to women, but rather have become temples to the false idols of self-worship?

The Church has been violated to her very soul, and if we cannot keep the world out, how can we heal and become restored and remain the haven to which all can flee in order to be empowered to proclaim the love of Christ?

What is needed is a true renewal, a return to Truth, to Traditions, and to the embrace of our Mother. We need to reject the ideologies of the world which do not have our needs at heart, those ideologies which seek only to destroy life wherever it is found.

We need to truly re-feminize the Church, get rid of all the innovation and New-Ageyness that has permeated many liturgies and parishes, and bring back true liturgical music and Catholic prayers. We need to rebuild the Bride, recognize our roles in the Mystical Body, and seek once again the unsurpassable beauty which has been so abused and forgotten.

Then the men will embrace what it means to be men, what it means to defend the honor of the Church, what it means to stand up before the culture and proclaim the Kingdom of God.

Major Prayer Request

I have a request, everyone - I need prayers in a major way!

This afternoon I sent off a resume and cover letter for a position at a local church. A little over a week ago, my friends contacted me and told me I had to apply for this job. My initial thought was that I was not qualified, for one of the requirements states that the applicant should have an undergrad degree in Theology.

I was grateful that my friends, who attend that parish, thought of me, however I just figured they weren't aware of my lack of that particular piece of paper. Yes, I have a B.A. degree...but not in that subject!

But they persisted, called me last Tuesday and gave me more information, insisting that this is something that I had to pursue. And of course, my friend's enthusiasm was infectious and it seems that I may be qualified, after all. Upon a closer review of the requirements, I can see how many of my current skills are transferable and would be put to use in this position. Even more importantly, my love of the Church, my desire to spread the faith, and my need to work in a positive Christ-centered environment will be met. My friends highly recommended her parish as a good place to work!

Please keep this intention in your prayers. I do truly want this job, given the information I have about it. I don't know how much it pays, but if it's God's will, then it will be enough and He will provide for any shortfalls. I have to trust in that.

If this s not the job for me, then, given all the other things wrapped up in this endeavor, the Holy Spirit has clear designs for me to at least interview for it. Perhaps a certain connection has to be made, or perhaps it will serve as a way to get me out of my rut and see possibilities I have not considered before this.

I have to say, though, that my resume is such a COMPLETE mismatch for the job, at least on the surface, and I fear that some of my background might make me come across as someone I don't happen to be anymore. Yet experience is experience and my history is what it is. I can't change, so I hope that there are redeeming qualities that will positively influence my future.

Only God knows the reasons for this "call" and I submit to His complete will in this. Is it wrong that I hope that His will and my will are a match on this one, though?

God bless you and thank you for your prayers. The ultimate intention in this case is that God's will be done. Amen!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Oh, dear...

I don't know how it happened, but apparently the Holy Father got a look at my most recent paper. I didn't realize he had to review our work. Do you see it? There it is, right in his hand, double spaced, margins 1 inch from the top, bottom, and sides. All to spec. And he's holding it up as an example.

Oh, dear.

What he's really saying, is, "Where did she get THAT out of Salvifici Doloris?

Holy Father, I'll try to do better next time.

In all seriousness, I actually have good news, and thanks to those of you who have been praying for me. I got a 96 on our first assignment, and a 92 on my paper on Suffering and Redemption. I'm pleased. An "A" and an "A-" in my first real theology class, grad level especially? YEAH!

But it didn't come without a price.

And this is where I begin my pontifications. Are you really surprised?

This class has been absolutely a Godsend. The classroom sessions have been quite illuminating, the reading has continued the illumination, and I wish I had obtained this knowledge long ago. I wish everyone could be a part of this.

The program boasts of personal formation as a part of the program, and I actually figured that to be somewhat of a "selling" point, and so it is, but I can verify the truth of the statement; I did not realize the true formative capacity of these teachings.

They do not necessarily come from the professor, although Professor Douglas Bushman was stellar in his instruction. The formative capacity does not come entirely from the writings of John Paul II, although I had several moments of complete understanding thanks to him.

The formation comes from the Holy Spirit, resulting from the classroom instruction, the material, AND the openness of the subject to the workings of the Holy Spirit himself.

I can see how someone could attend the classes, learn some things, read some stuff, and answer the questions, making the entire process boring and mechanical, and thus be unaffected. We have to be open to the Holy Spirit.

I have actually found that the Holy Spirit was better able to reach me through these lessons by virtue of my own fiat in attending the class. I did not know what to expect, I do not have an undergrad theology degree, and my only hope was that I was not in over my head. Not only did God answer, but God SURROUNDED me in this endeavor and he has changed me forever through the knowledge obtained. In other words, God reached me through my weakness and brought out the strength which I can only attest to Him, not to me.

I highly recommend this program at Ave Maria University. For those who are "local" (Minneapolis, MN, Green Bay, WI), you still have time to apply for next semester. Please consider doing so. Everything is due by May 15.

Learn more by visiting the website for AMU's Institute for Pastoral Theology.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Spring in Minnesota

Spring has arrived. It hit something like 85 today.

The weather in Minnesota is completely schizophrenic. Really.

Only a couple weeks ago, it was snowing and really cold, such that on our regular morning walk, a man entering the park on his way to work stopped and congratulated me for faithfully being out there every morning, "freezing my tail off." He was apparently impressed. I just explained that my dogs had to "go" even if it was cold out.

Then it got nicer. For weeks, even before our last cold snap, I've been seeing robins, red-wing blackbirds, and last weekend I was lulled by the music of croaking frogs in a nearby marsh. Today I saw a blue heron in another part of town.

Just a couple days ago, I saw hints of new buds on some of the trees and bushes, and then passed a neighbor's courtyard to see two bushes in full bloom. They don't have leaves, but they sure do have flowers! (Or perhaps that bush actually blooms in yellow leaves?)

The lilac bush on the south side of my building has new leaves, and today I saw my first dandelion.

That seals it. Spring has arrived.

One of my neighbors has all sorts of outdoor decorations and loves to putter around in her little landscaped area. Each spring she puts out chimes, and I love the music they provide.

Tonight I stepped out with my dogs, enjoying the windy evening, the clear sky with the haloed moon, and the sound of the chimes ringing through the darkness. Something about early spring evenings, especially those like tonight place me into an introspective, contemplative mood and I want only to be out there, appreciating the earth God gave us.

I could not stop the psalm that rose from within while I let my dog sniff around:

You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
2 Say to the LORD, "My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust."

God is truly present, he surrounds us, he hears our prayers, and he holds us so deeply in the palm of his hands, even when the dome of the sky is dark. We have to see that the darkness is not truly dark (Psalm 139), but rather, it is really representative of the comforting hand of the Lord cradling us so that we can safely sleep, trusting in His protection.

The Coming of the Flood

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I originally posted this a year ago, in June 2006, but I have recieved my Mother's account of the story and have added it. She is less long-winded than I am. Those of you who remember this story can just page down and you will find her memory of the event in italics.

When I was a little girl (very little), we lived in a country neighborhood sprawled haphazardly around and on a hill near the banks of the Rock River in Illinois. It was a great place to be a kid in...we had the woods, we had hills for sledding in the winter, and overall, most of our neighbors were great people.

During the winter, we had options for sledding; the biggest hill was between about four different properties, and we had standing permission to use it as long as we didn't damage the buildings or the trees (with the exception of accidentally crashing into trees which can happen on a sled). The other hills were smaller, but treacherous; they were narrow and descended between the trees in the woods.

And we had Frank's Place. He had this grand yard that sported kind of a bowl which led down into the creek. It flooded every spring, and sometimes, if we'd had more rain than usual, it might flood before freezing and then we'd have a layer of ice to slicken up our sledding endeavors. I think my brother managed to get his sled all the way into the frozen creek (or "crick" in local parlance) once. That was quite a feat!

We loved going to Frank's place, and we were careful to ask his permission before doing so as we did not want to lose the privelige of using his awesome bowl for sledding. He always told us not to get hurt, and seemed very gruff, but he ALWAYS let us use the area.

Although I was very little Mom used to let me go without her direct observation because I was with my brother, who was two yrs older, and other children. And in that neighborhood, it was almost guaranteed that other adults were watching and they knew ALL of us. The world was different then, and so the "dangers" to us had less to do with predators and more to do with just being kids.

As spring neared, we were warned not to use Frank's place because it was getting too warm. The river flooded each spring, and when that happened, Frank's bowl became what it was and morphed from a frozen sledding hill into a spring pond fit for thousands of tadpoles and a couple of water moccasins. Ice-out was a dangerous time of year, for no one knew the day or the hour in which the ice would break.

We left home one day, having heard the warning, and our plan was initially to sled on the upper hills nearer to our house. But one of the other kids said that it was fine and we should go to Frank's for we had not much time left. My brother and I resisted (mostly him...I was very shy and prone to keeping my silence. Amazing, isn't it?), but we went because we wanted to experience the terrain one last time, too.

We had a BLAST flying down Frank's hill and across the bottom of the bowl. It was always a race to see who could go the furthest the fastest. As I was the littlest, I was NEVER the one to reach the point closest to the crick, but that didn't stop me from trying!

What happened next has been related to me but I hold only a vague memory of the event. For awhile I denied it but I could not deny the images that continue in my mind to this day or the nightmares that still come to me when they are triggered by similar real-life events.

It was a warm winter day, cloudy, and the snow on Frank's hill was packed from use. We were flying down the hill and across the bottom, when cracking sounds began to echo in the relative silence of the winter afternoon. We ignored the sound and continued sledding. My brother went down the hill, and one of our friends, I think. Our parents were coming, and we didn't want to stop. They had a note of warning, a note of desperation, but as we knew we were where we were not supposed to be, we rushed to get in our last it was, we were in trouble for our disobedience and we knew it. Might as well make it worth it. So even with parents descending upon us, we went down the hill in defiance of their commands. I do remember turning my head to see Mom coming towards us, on foot, yelling already, calling our names. I remember throwing myself into my orange toboggan so that I could make this last "slide" the best yet.

The problem was that we didn't know what that echoing crack was about. Our parents did. We thought we were in trouble. We were, but we did not understand the reason why and that we were in trouble only because of the presence real danger.

Spring had arrived.

I remember sliding across the bottom and seeing my brother (or maybe his friend?) leaping out of his sled and trying desperately to flee before the wall of water that was coming at us. I remember the boy yelling, telling me to STOP! STOP! TURN AROUND! GET UP! I remember my sled stopping as it met the water and it didn't float...the icy brown water began to come into my little orange toboggan, forcing it down. I was getting soaked.

I couldn't get up. I couldn't move. The water was coming and I just sat there because I couldn't get out of my sled.

I saw adults, parents rushing down the hill, and someone grabbed me and hauled me out of the sled as the water climbed higher. They helped me walk through the water and the snow, out of the bowl that was rapidly filling with the spring flood of the Rock River.

Someone else had reached the boy (my brother, I think) who was in front of me, who had been yelling.

I don't think there was much stopping for any of us once at the top of the hill; I remember somewhat clearly my hand in my Mom's, and she was upset and scolding me, but seemed more concerned than anything. She told me that she had to get me into the bathtub and cleaned off. I did not want to take a bath, but she explained that the water was very dirty, and so I meekly agreed, exclaiming, "Yuck!" from that point on.

I remember that my snowsuit was literally peeled off of me, and as this happened, I proclaimed, "Yucky, yucky! Yuck! Yucky!" and Mom agreed. I was thrust unceremoniously into the warm water of the tub and cleansed thoroughly and when I was dressed in warm clothing, I was still saying "Yucky" as my Mom related the tale to others.

My Mom recently reminded us of this harrowing event. She described how she had been at home and heard the ice crack. Somehow, instantly, she and all the other parents of the children involved *KNEW* that something was wrong. They *KNEW* that we were NOT where we were supposed to be, and NOT A ONE went to the other sledding hills; they ALL converged at Frank's Place just as the bowl began to fill with the spring flood.

The calvary of parents came of of nowhere to rescue their children, and each of them credits guardian angels for the alert. Not a single one of us was lost in the flood, all by the Grace of God.

What follows is my Mom's account of the event:

It must have been a beautiful winter day as most of the neighborhood children were sliding on the neighbor guy's hill. We called it "The Bowl" because the area was a natural depression shaped like a bowl. At the bottom of the hill was a tree. Beyond that is a flat area which leads to the creek that drains into the Rock River under a highway bridge. It is a natural flood plain.

It was getting to be late afternoon as I was beginning ot prepare supper. I think it was mid-February 1979. I felt a vibration with my bare feet about the same time I heard a "CRACK". I knew the ice was going out of the river. I jumped into my boots. I may or may not have reached for a jacket as I ran out the door. Our street was plowed in on both ends that winter so I had to run on top of snow and snow piles. (A neighbor later told me I had run like a deer - not even touching the ground. - That may be because I believe I was "Sent".)

As I approached The Bowl, I saw several children on the hill, some sliding down, some coming up, and three little ones preparing to slide down (ages 3, 4, and 7). I tried to stop them but couldn't. A 4th or 5th grader tried to help the children off the hill as we saw white water blow over and under the bridge into the creek and bowl. As the children slid down the hill I ran after them. The water, the three kids, and myself all met at the tree at the bottom of the hill. As the neighbor boy floated over to me, I reached for him with my left arm, picking him up by the straps of his two-piece snow suit. My daughter jumped onto my back with her arms around my neck. My son grabbed hold of my right arm and held on for dear life.

When I turned to go back up the hill, I couldn't move. The toe of my right boot was under a sled (which by this point was completely under ice cold freezing water and ice.) I asked God for HELP.

Just then, my dad's gentle voice said, "Take your foot out of the boot. Go behind the tree." Just as we got behind the tree the first wave hit, and then receeded. We were under water. Then a few more big waves and the current slowed. The voice said to o"Go left and stay in the lighted path...and go forward with the water and hold when it receeds." At one point I couldn't get footing. The voice told me to move my foot to the left to get footing past the ice. And with forward, hold, forward, hold, we walked up thehill and out of the flooded bowl.

Some weeks later, after we had recovered from our colds, and the water had receeded, the neighbor came and told me there was something he wanted me to see. We walked to the hill and there by the tree was my missing boot, still full of water, under my son's sled. My daughter's red toboggan and the neighbor boys' blue saucer were by the creek near the bridge.

The neighbor told me they hadn't realized that we had gone all the way down the hill. He asked how we got out. I told him, "Only by the grace of God," were we able to walk up the hill and out of the water.

(As a couple notes to my Mom's story: Mom has only one hand. Her left hand never formed so she has no fingers and only a partially-formed palm. That is the arm she used to save one of our friends. Secondly, the "voice" of her Dad came from eternity, for I would have been about five years old and he had died that winter. )

I realized upon reflecton that this story is a parable all it's own, and perhaps the Lord will allow me to use it as such, for there is a moral to the story.

We children sinned through disobedience to our parents who were aware of the danger and told us what the danger was, but we ignored the warning and followed our own will. Of COURSE we had a BLAST in our disobedience; disobedience is usually a lot of fun...that is, until there are consequences.

The Consequence came to us in the form of the flooding river when the ice went out. Our forbidden playground flooded, and had things gone differently, we would not have been the only children on the face of the planet to go to our judgment as a result of a flood.

But our parents heard the river cracking, and by the Grace of God, they understood that the fruit of their love was in mortal danger. Each and every one dropped what they were doing, and converged, lead by the Guardian Angels of chidren to the very location of their charges.

Each and every responding adult cast aside their own terror and ran INTO the FLOOD and pulled someone to safety. Each and every one died to themselves so that another soul might live, and in most cases, that was the soul of their own child. (Although not a single child in danger was surpassed).

Each and every one of us children was hauled home firmly and cast into the warm, clean water to be purified. We all received some sort of punishment, although it was mostly a tongue-lashing as the parents considered the flood to have been terrifying enough.

And each and every one of us lived to sled another day; we lived to tell the tale and that, my friends, is Redemption.

I did not realized until recently that this event has affected me. For many years, I did not remember it, and when Mom brought it up, I denied it. But something in the back of my mind kicked me and harangued me and reminded me of the vague, foggy visions of being pulled from the toboggan and the warm bath punctuated by "Yuck!" My own memory of the incident is vague, foggy images, and so I cannot clearly tell you that I remember every piece of what I have told here. But I remember enough, and the nightmares I still suffer on occasion validate the experience.

I still remember a particular nightmare from when I was a child; in this dream, I was in the middle of a field, and all had been wiped out by a huge wave. And while I walked, seeking safety, more waves of mud were coming, although they were small. I knew a larger one was coming and I was afraid. But Mom found me and lead me to a safe place. I still woke up screaming, terrified of the wave to come.

I did not have any such dream like that for a long time, but then when I spent a semester in Mexico and swam in the ocean on the Gulf and the Pacific coasts, for months I had dreams of monster waves coming unnanounced and sweeping us all out to sea. And in those dreams, I was always able to escape the wave,and the certain death if not the terror of the event.

I realize now that the nightmares result from the flood wave which overtook us on that day of sledding.

And THAT, everyone, is what the Catholic church refers to as "temporal punishment", that is; the consequences of sin which we must live out while we are on this earth. We can be forgiven the sin through the grace of God (and sacrament of confession), but God will not erase the debt we owe; and to this day, it seems I am still paying for my disobedience.

This is a parable for for all of us, and if I were to poll every one of you, you would have a story which shares all of the above elements. You could describe your sin; you may still suffer the consequence; you remember the sacrifice and the grace that saved you and you are still here, proving that you have been redeemed to live another day.

Maybe some of you reading this may not be Catholic or even Christian. Maybe someone reading this does not fully understand what I mean by the titled terms or what the Catholic Church teaches. I encourage everyone to do the following:

Write down a moment in your life in which you sinned. It does not have to be dramatic. What is the sin? Taking the toy of another? Disobedience to parents? Lying? What was the consequence of that? Did someone else have to make a sacrifice of some sort on your behalf? Was there some miracle (grace) that saved you from something worse which would have resulted from your sin? And how were you redeemed? How did you happen to survive/learn from your sin and continue on?

We all have stories, and through these stories we can come to better understand the teachings of our faith. We cannot ever escape consequences. But that is not to say that we suffer alone or without understanding of others, and certainly, we cannot survive without God's grace, nor would we have eternal life without the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

As always, God bless you all, and thank God for the gift of life which you all have received.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Saint Meme

Terry at Abbey-Roads2 tagged me for a meme, and while I SHOULD be studying, it's Friday night and I'm goofing off. For shame!

The instructions from the originator of this meme, The Roving Medievalist, proceed as follows:

Those tagged will list their four favorite saints, their one favorite blessed, and one person they think should have been a saint.

I have many favorite Saints, so here goes:

St. Wenceslaus - He chose me for 2007, and his intercession has become known in small and large ways. He was a martyr, a catechist, and a king in more ways than one, and I pray for him to lead me in his footsteps through the drifts.

St. Joseph - Devotion instilled in me since I was a child, internalized as an adult, single woman, without an earthly father. He has made his intercession also known through small, everyday things. Thank you, St. Joseph.

St. Therese of Lisieux - Who doesn't love her? She's made her presence known to me in big ways, both through active requests of her intercession and without request. One night I was in the chapel, weeping as I struggled, waiting to speak to Father, praying, desperate for help. A woman stopped and nudged me, placing a homemade prayer booklet in my hands. She whispered discreetly that she'd brought the booklet for someone who wasn't there and she felt she was to give it to me. It consisted of several prayers for the intercession of St. Therese and a litany for private devotion. I have not seen that woman since, and other blessings have come to me from this Saint. I also have a bush that bloomed- 3 flowers - in October (in Minnesota!) on the 5th day of a Novena to St. Therese of Lisieux.

St. Anthony - Who doesn't need St. Anthony!

St. Therese of Avila - She was a debutante who left the life of materialism to become a humble woman of strong will and great intellect, such that she spoke for God and instructed Popes, calling them to conversion in some very dark times for the Church. She is the feminist of feminists (true feminism, that is!). She terrifies me for her instruction is unforgiving, but her intercession is one of great love for she desires that we all live up to our full dignity as human beings and become the Saints we have always been intended to become.

St. Peter, the Apostle - Because I am clueless most of the time, too, with a few moments of illumination, and I am constantly sticking my foot in my mouth even more deeply than he did. He gives me hope.

St. Thomas Aquinas - The Scholar, the Patron of my blog and my higher education, the Patron of the intellect I wish I had.

St. Faustina - Divine Mercy. Need I say more?

St. Padre Pio - My great-uncle was a friend of his, and added my brother and I to his list of Spiritual Children. He has revealed his intercession for me by using me as his hands to spread greater devotion to Christ in specific ways.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati - He interceeded for me in a sensitive matter last Fall, as I prayed a novena to him. He is known for his mischief, but also his helpfulness in dire consequences. He is "The Man of the Beatitudes." To all fellow Frassati members, "VERSO D'ALTO!"

Father Walter Ciszek, S.J. - He went to serve the Church in communist Russia and was sent to prison, where he served the "least" of God's children. His writings have been of great comfort to me in my own personal prison and I have since become aware of several conversions of those who kept his Prayer of Surrender close to them while incarcerated. May God will that he be canonized as a Saint. He has assisted me in many ways and I often plead for his intercession while working.

And my blog would not be honest if I did not add the other unofficial Saint:
John Paul II - Need anything else be said?

I have not quite followed the meme in numbers, and so if you are reading this, I tag YOU! Spread the mesage, let me know if you are posting on your blog, and if you do not have a blog, answer in the comments section.

God bless you, and may all the Saints pray for us!

The Lord in the Hand

When I was a little girl, we learned to receive Communion only in the hand with an afterthought mention of receiving "by mouth." So I spent most of my life allowing Jesus to be placed into my hand, and early in my career as a Catholic, I predictably dropped Him on the red carpeting while trying to be "reverent" in my reception.

I didn't know what to do, so I quickly considered that Mom told me that this was Jesus and I didn't want to step on 10 second rule applied. I quickly stooped down in my little dress, picked up Jesus, and popped him into my mouth...skipping happily away back to my pew. (Seriously....I was afraid I had held up the line so I "skipped" so as to get out of their way).

Mom was mortified...Father just shrugged (I caught this action as I had stood up and glanced at Father abashedly), and it wasn't until I was an adult that I learned I had done exactly the right thing.

They never told us what to do if such a disaster happened, and for years, I was completely embarassed about the incident.

A couple years ago, I attended my first Latin Mass, at our wonderfully famous Church of St. Agnes in St. Paul, MN. It was my first experience with, not only the Latin, but with the music, the communion rail, and reception on the tongue.

By then, I had read enough and I had considered trying it but was afraid to do so, so apparently God arranged that I would have no choice. So it was that I found myself kneeling at the communion rail as Father Altier came by, the faithful altar boy at his side with the paten...and Jesus came to me as appropriate: while I was on my knees.

From that point on, I could not bring myself to receive in the hand unless there was some reason why I couldn't (cold sore, major cold, confused EHMC, etc.)

But there are many who do receive in the hand, perhaps the majority in America, thanks to the misguidance of some of our Shepherds of the past, so thus we are obedient to this permission.

Thus we all need to be informed as to how to properly recieve Jesus in the hand.

Father V. has a GREAT and humorous post on this, and just for an enticing snippet:

E MODEST MANUS - I find it strange that persons who don't mind showing their mid-drifts or legs beginning just below the hips will be modest about exposing the skin of their hands in church. Please let me assure you that not only, at least in the instance, is it alright, it is also mandatory.

Read the rest and propogate this throughout blogdome and your parishes!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Gun Control

There's a lot of ideology and politiking flying around since Monday, and quite honestly, I'm offended that all these people are jumping onto the political bandwagon to seek votes while the emotions are running high over the horrible slaughter at Virginia Tech.

Let me be very clear; the people who were killed and injured at Virginia Tech are not there to be poster children for politicians, and to make them out to be such is demeaning to the dignity and memory of them all, including the killer.

But since the topic is flying around, I am going to enter my own opinion, which actually has nothing to do with this event. I am "pro-gun" now and will likely remain so, but keep in mind that my position was tempered by the extensive training I have receivd.

I grew up in a household in which my mother was so terrified of guns that the very topic threw her into a complete tizzy. Her brother, my uncle, died in Korea, killed by a sniper, apparently while protecting a priest. I don't know the whole story, but we have visited his grave every year on Memorial Day to honor his memory and his sacrifice.

Imagine Mom's complete consternation when I announced I wanted to be a police officer! I think she nearly drove off the road; we were en route to visit the college I was considering for their Criminal Justice program, and her questions forced me to reveal the news although I would have chosen a safer occasion to do so.

That following summer, when I turned 18, my cousin, a part-time officer, welcomed me to his home and gave me a "dry-run" with several guns, gave me quite the involved primer on gun safety, and instilled the foundation for my education in this. He took me under his wing and really fed my career aspirations but with great cautions and of course, with great love.

Mom referred to him as a "gun nut". I wish all "gun nuts" were just like him, because if they were, the world would be a safer place. He was all about education and safety.

When we finally went out to the gravel pit, he brought along a bullet proof vest; he would not even allow me to enter the area without it, for fear of a ricochet. My cousin took his lessons very seriously and knew of my Mom's fears so he did his utmost to be sure I was returned to her in the same condition I had been when I left the house.

He taught me to shoot several types of guns, several styles, and on our third trip out, he was confidant enough in my ability to challenge my marksmanship with something he thought I might face someday; a gunman with a hostage.

He set up the cardboard cutouts with clothing to blur the lines, and set one in front of the other to mimic a gunman shielding himself with an innocent party...and he bid me to put one through this guy's head and "ruin his day."

I did as I was told, and I "ruined his day" in a major way with a Smith and Wesson .45 semi-automatic.

The primary lesson of all of this was not only experience and forcing me to face real-life situations, but when I shot the victim, he made sure I knew that, too, because the use of weapons in deadly force is not a joke. There are always consequences, and these consequences are deadly.

In skills training we spent a great deal of time at the range, and our instructor, while fond of humor, was deadly serious on the range. Even though we had heard the instructions a thousand times, he always bid us to "fire downrange!" before holstering our weapons. (.9mm glocks).

On the occasion of a night shoot at the training range, however, one individual chose to ignore his advice. He holstered his weapon, and as he did so, pulled the trigger...and the gun went off. It entered his pantleg, seared down his leg, and exited through his shoe.

He was unharmed, but for a black burn-mark down his leg, and the holes in his clothing.

He learned this lesson in a very scary way.

The school was also home to other bullet-marks in the walls, thanks to students who had disregarded classroom instruction and put everyone in a bad situation.

When I was hired as a Police Officer, I was given a Smith & Wesson .45 to carry, quite large for my hands and predictably, I had some difficulty qualifying. A few years prior I had purchased an HK .9mm, which I still own, so my duty weapon was very different and took some adjustment. The Range Instructor felt that I was a good shot, however the qualification took awhile and the department's standards were far higher than the school's standards. As it should be, for Police Officers are charged with making that ultimate decision; to take life or not to take life.

I was amazed by the ignorance of my friends (non-law enforcement) while I went through training, for they often offered the suggestion to "shoot to maim, not kill".

I have to be very clear on this issue; there is NEVER a reason to point a gun towards another human being unless you intend to kill him.

That is why the use of a gun in any situation constitutes "use of deadly force", which in the Minnesota State Statutes is Criminal Code 609.066.

Deadly force is a big deal, and the situation had better warrent such use. Someone may intend to shoot a leg or an arm, and strike the heart. A shooting situation involves a human being who may have run for blocks, may have leapt over fences, may be shaking with adrenalin...and that shot may not be true and kill the person they only want to stop. There is no such thing as "shoot to maim."

When I lived in Mexico, I became acquainted with a man who was an ex-cop. I had observed that, in Mexico, at museums, at tourist affairs, at government buildings, and literally everywhere we went, the cops were carrying sawed-off shotguns and fully-automatic weapons. I asked this man why, and he serenly replied, "It's for shooting into crowds so we can kill more people."

God. Bless. America.

We do not shoot into crowds here. As depraved as our society happens to be, we still hold, collectively, some shred of value for life.

I am no longer a cop nor do I ever plan to revisit that part of my life in any way other than through memory or writing of the lessons learned.

However, I am a woman, and I am a trained woman, and I fully believe in my right to own a weapon for the purpose of self-defense.

When I lived in south Minneapolis, I kept a loaded gun close by because I worked nights and I was well aware that most burglaries take place in the daytime. Because I had nowhere to go if someone were to enter our home, I planned to be prepared.

I still have my gun although I live in a more secure area now, however, if someone enters my home and comes up my stairs at 3 am, he gets one warning if he's lucky (if there's time), and then he will be entrusted to the Lord's Judgment. I reserve the right to defend my own honor because there is no one else to do it for me.

I have heard the arguments stemming from the wording of the Constitution with regard to the 2nd Amendment; that it pertains to a trained militia.

Fine. I'm a trained militia of one woman. Do not enter unbidden or I will consider it to be a hostile takeover and I. Will. Take. You. Out. Period.

In all seriousness, the concept about a "trained militia" having the only access is a great ideology and if our country and culture had developed differently, I would agree, but I must say that we live in the real world, not one that we would like to be real. Thus we must deal with this on real terms.

The reality is that guns are readily available in our culture and if they forbidden to the average citizen, the criminals would be empowered, forcing the good citizens into the black market to obtain weapons for themselves, for Americans are not going to be cowed by legislation that usurps their right to defend their families.

In other countries that have stringent gun laws, (ie the Netherlands)their murder rates are only slightly lower...for very little has to do with guns, but most has to do with premeditation for the murders are committed in closer quarters with knives and other weapons.

"Gun control" is not the solution to violence.

Respect for life IS a solution. Education in gun handling is a solution, and enabling the average citizen to learn to handle guns and the appropriate use of and consequences of them IS a solution.

Guns are a tool. They are inanimate metal and plastic; it takes intent to kill.

Where I live now, I am not so "dependent" upon my gun, and this is because I have other protective measures I did not have before. I see the gun as the last option, the option of absolute desperation for the purpose of defense only.

Yet there are extremists out there who seem to depend upon this as their answer to defense, which it is not. Then there are those who seem to depend upon legislation to deprive their neighbors from this legitimate option for defense.

The answer to violence has nothing to do with guns and everything to do with humanity and our flawed consciousness with respect to human life.

Yes, I am pro-gun and I'm willing to use the defense, if I am cornered, and consistent with my training.

But I'd far prefer never to have to think about it. I'd prefer that we live in a society that respects life and the reality behind the events of Virginia Tech. It was a man, not a gun, who killed the innocent in cold blood. It was a man, not a gun, who planned, plotted, and carried out this event. It was a man, not a gun, that was seriously mentally disturbed, displaying outright aggressive paranoia when he carried out his act.

If guns were not available to him, he would have found another way. The 9/11 terrorists didn't use guns to carry out their slaughter, did they?

Guns have never been the problem; don't make them the scapegoat. It's people who carry out the acts with whatever tool is available.

I am all for a waiting period, strict education, and other "controls", but do not ever take away my gun as long as I am a law-abiding citizen. I maintain the right to defend my life or that of another should the situation call for it.

I just pray that it might never be necessary and that this weapon will only be used to practice hand-eye coordination.

Let the flaming begin:

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Truth, Free Will, and Human Dignity

Recently I and a group of friends were in conversation with a priest and the topic of contraception arose. I'm not sure how the question or suggestion was put to him, but some of this group, some of which were his parishioners, suggested he use the pulpit to discuss contraception or promote Natural Family Planning (NFP) classes at his parish.

He became visibly uncomfortable with this suggestion and explained that there were many who were not open to such a teaching and would not be happy. As a result, they, the priests at his parish, have chosen to avoid "controversial" topics.

I have been turning this over in my mind a great deal, and I have been growing more and more offended at the affront to the dignity of the people of this parish this attitude presents. And unfortunately, this shrinking away from moral topics is far too common in America.

Where to begin? This attitude is so wrong on so many levels!

First of all, those who are placed in a position of Church authority, whether as clergy, religious, catechists, etc., have a moral obligation to speak the truth in charity to those they serve. The Good Lord did not place them there to speak on his behalf with the admonition to try not to offend anyone.

The truth is offensive - it is supposed to be so! The Truth makes us uncomfortable. GOOD! Because it is this very discomfort that makes us squirm by holding up an example of whom we are allegedly seeking to conform.

It is not the job of the Church to conform to the immorality of the people; it is the job of the Church to lift the people up to Christ, call them to transcend the depravity of the culture and conform them to be like Jesus Christ!

To withhold the Truth because people may become offended is an outright and active affront to their human dignity, for it deprives them of the God-given use of their free will. So what if they reject the teachings of Jesus Christ? They rejected Him first, they tried to stone him, and they finally beat and crucified him.

I got news for you all....we are all called for such devotion, love, and obedience to the Truth, personified in Jesus Christ. He was not kidding when he told us to "Take up your cross and follow me."

To all priests, religious, and teachers...I IMPLORE you to speak of "controversial" topics to the people to whom you are sent. If I am one of them, then PLEASE OFFEND ME WITH THE TRUTH! Do not allow me to wallow in darkness!

Speaking as an ex-dissident myself, I would not be where I am now if I had not heard the Truth, and it is a sad state of affairs to say I had to find it on TV because there was no one else available who could be bothered with such a sordid affair of reaching through my moral ambiguity to confront me with reality. Thank God that He alone is so faithful, for He did not let me go. Those of you who must speak for him are literally CHARGED with teaching the people! Please overcome your own unwillingness and do your best to restore life to the dead and become a light in the darkness.

I cannot emphasize this enough: let people be offended! They became ticked off at Christ and rejected him in dramatic ways...why should YOU be any different? The servant is not greater than his Master...none of us is greater than Jesus, and we can all expect to offend someone.

In fact, if someone is not offended, then we are not doing our jobs.

I am not advocating in any way that we should go out and beat people over the head. Rather, I am advocating simply presenting the moral teachings of the Church, the same ones found throughout history, in a calm, professional, and confidant manner. It is not our place to reject the Truth on behalf of others. It is our place to allow them, in their free will, to accept or reject it, and it is not the problem of the teacher if the student isn't open to following Christ. Adam and Eve had a choice too, and each one of us is in a position to relive the Garden of Eden. God allowed them to do so and this reality has never changed.

One day we will all be called to account not only for the words we spoke, but for those we did not speak; and woe to the man or woman who was in possession of the Truth of Jesus Christ and chose to remain silent. Our omissions will be fully revealed to us in all their far-reaching consequences, and we will have no defense.

Indeed, there is a time to speak and a time to be silent, and this is where prayer must come in; we must look to the example of Jesus there as well, for He chose silence at some points as well.

But it is not proper to choose to ignore the difficult teachings for to do such a thing robs the people who are deserving of the Truth. How can they reject what they do not know or understand?

SPEAK THE TRUTH AND DO NOT WITHHOLD IT! Do not offend the dignity of the people by robbing them of free will. We are all called to be the hands of Christ, and this doesn't always refer to physical work, but to teachings as well...the Truth is placed into our hands. If we do not give it away, we are, in and of ourselves, rejecting God, rejecting the Truth, and rejecting even our own dignity.

Speak the Truth, and do not fear. Speak the Truth, and affirm the dignity of those who hear it. Speak the Truth, and allow the one hearing it to embrace or reject it, for they have the right to do so.

Speak the Truth, and by doing so, you conform yourself to Christ for if they reject you, you may be comforted that He was rejected first.

The Truth and Love are inextricably linked; rejection of one is unfulfillment of the other. Trust God, conform to Christ...and be guided by the Truth.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Don't Call My Name

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I wrote this piece a few months after I "retired" from law enforcement. I was inspired upon the occasion of the untimely death of a local State Trooper, whom I did not personally know, to write this piece. I further edited the work upon the tragic death of another police officer, whose wife, a Deputy Chief at the time, had been one of my references. I consider this to be a work of fiction because the experiences within are not necessarily "mine", but those of police officers collectively, throughout the world. The beginning is mine, although I suspect that others would state something similar. Police Officers everywhere answer to a true call; it is not just a job, and even a short time in the field marks a soul for life. .

I decided a long time ago to become a police officer. My family was shocked and most of them decided that I was insane. They spoke to me as if I were an irrational child, and everyone, EVERYONE, asked me "WHY!?" . I neither defended nor explained my choice. The simple reason was this: there was no rational or logical reason in the world for my desire to become a police officer. I knew the risks I'd be taking and I understood my family's concern.

So I prayed, "God, please don't call my name."

I went through the training where they made us run miles and hold the push-up position for what seemed like hours while we listened to our instructor give us his life story. They made us take our turns at leading calisthenics and if we didn't give it our all, they made us do extra. They stuck us in the "gas chamber" and gave us tear gas, CS gas, and pepper spray just to be sure we got our "money's worth" of education. They twisted our joints and shot at us, and throughout the training, they impressed upon us that no matter what happened, no matter how serious the injury, how intense the fear, or how close the panic, we were always to be in control of ourselves and the situation. They taught us the mentality necessary for survival on the streets. And they told us story after story of heroes fallen in the line of duty. They taught us to learn from their mistakes as well as our own and how to not make the same mistake twice. We may never get a second chance.

Throughout it all, I prayed, "God, please don't call my name."

When I was finally hired, I raised my right hand to give my oath to God, my Country, my State, City and Department, to uphold the Constitution of the United States, enforce the laws, to Serve and to Protect. In a room full of collegues, family, and superiors, I gave my oath and silently prayed, "God, please don't call my name."

I wore my brand-new uniform with pride, pinned on my badge, strapped on my vest, and holstered my loaded gun for the first time. As I did so, the full weight of my responsibility settled upon my soul. I experienced for the first time the taste of the knowledge that accompanies fear; sometimes "serving and protecting" means taking a life or risking my I prayed, "God, please don't call my name."

I rode in a squad car, patrolled the strets, stopped offenders, served warrants, subpoenas, and took reports. I turned in documents upon which I had written, "status/inactive", knowing that someone's home, life, and rights were somehow violated, but I was unable to provide the solution they needed me to offer. I realized that although I was young and inexperienced, I was suddenly "Authority", and I supposedly had "the answer" the people I served were seeking. I comforted the grieving, warned the disorderly, and stopped the assault. I restored safety, referred people to other agencies for problems I couldn't fix, and I tracked down runaways and returned them to their parents, caring or otherwise. I held the hands of children trapped in twisted metal and I helped to save the life of someone's family member. Each and every day I saw both the best and the worst of human nature.

However, I always knew that I was not immune to the tragedies that strike unprovoked, so I prayed, "God, please don't call my name."

I learned early that because I wore a uniform and a badge, I was no longer my own person. My life was not mine; it belonged to the public and my reputation was relegated to the same. I became the target of hatred, unforgiving glares, and pointing fingers. Likewise I was seen as an expert in the law and the solution to life gone somehow awry. And I felt incredibly inept.

So I prayed, "God, please don't call my name."

I attended the funeral of a fellow officer who had fallen in the line of duty. I gave my condolences to his family and friends and I shared in their grief. As I paid my respects and said my goodbyes to the officer in the casket, I realized that his death was not personal. He was killed because he wore a uniform and a badge. He died for what he represented, not for who he really was. I knew that it could just as easily be any one of the thousands of officers who do the same job lying in that casket. I also knew that no matter who it was, the death would not be any easier to accept. And as the tears came to my eyes I understood the full impact of the identity I shared with this individual. And I prayed, "God, please don't call my name."

When I flipped on the lights, switched on the siren and screamed through crowded intersections en route to a call of a "man with a gun," and as I risked my life to reach an unknown situation, I knew that I couldn't spend my career, and thus my life, fearing that my name would be called. So I put my life into the hands of the Lord and I did the job that no one else would.

I stood by the closed door, drawing my weapon as, from the other side, came the unmistakable sound of a live round striking the empty chamber of an unidentified gun. I didn't need to see the frightened eyes of the victim to know that I was living someone else's desperate prayer. I knew why I was there.

"God, you already called my name.""

Happy 80th, Holy Father!

I held my breath with the rest of the world after the passing of beloved Pope John Paul II, knowing the promise of Jesus to His Bride would be kept; we are forever under the protection of the Holy Spirit.

I remember how I loved Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, and prayed he would be the choice of the conclave. I remember exactly where I was at that moment in time. We always remember the most minute details at such important moments, because, for that space of time, nothing else is important, and yet, everything is given a clarity it did not otherwise have.

We were taking our Manager out to lunch for he was leaving for another position, and we wanted to say goodbye. The pizza restaurant we patronized had, I think, CNN (the channel was unimportant) on, and I remember looking up to see the white smoke, hearing the cries, HABEMUS PAPAM!

I was not able to express my true joy as we were sitting at a crowded meal, but no one could refrain from making comment. It was one of those moments in which I very publicly came out to many as a practicing Catholic, deeply in love with my faith and with our Holy become known as Pope Benedict XVI.

Happy Birthday, Holy Father! We love you!

And can I just say....our beloved Pope Benedict XVI has to be the most photogenic Pontiff EVER!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I Came Home to Divine Mercy

Divine Mercy is part of my conversion story - a part that wasn't told in that series of posts.

When I was living in the darkness of my sin, working nights, and basically, embracing the total darkness that was my life, a co-worker gave me some books to read while at my post at night: The Left Behind series.

I was seeking God at the time, sensing my separation, sensing his call, but I was at a loss as to what to do. I remember thinking that maybe I should find a priest, make an appointment, and pose my questions to him. But who? What church? Weren't priests too busy to deal with the likes of me? And if I DID find a priest, I was quite certain he would tell me I needed to go to Confession, and I didn't want to and would be at a loss to explain why. I feared being pressured into something I didn't want to do, so I ran from the idea.

And because I had nowhere to go, I went nowhere...or so I thought.

One Christmas, Mom had given my brother and I a CD with the Divine Mercy prayer on it, along with a pamphlet explaining the devotion and how to pray the chaplet. I remember finding the CD and the pamphlet, and I read it over suspiciously, thinking it was too easy. It also said I had to go to at first, I tossed it aside. Something told me not to throw it away, though, so I added it to my collection of eclectic things that didn't otherwise have a place in my home and my life.

But as I was reading the "Left Behind" books, I found that I was offended by the outright anti-Catholicism expressed within the pages, including the idea that the Pope became the right-hand man of the Antichrist. I couldn't explain why I was so offended, but it was like someone was attacking my Mother. Attack me all you want...but do NOT mess with my Mother!

I was conflicted, but somehow, these books drew me into an understanding that I had been rejecting God, and I had to make my peace with Him...and that move was mine. I didn't believe in the Rapture, but it did come to me that if God wanted to wipe me off the face of the earth, he would do it. If he wanted to cause the earth to erupt into earthquakes and raining fire, he could do it.

And always, I had the presence of the crucifix on the wall of my livingroom - because it wasn't home without that. Thank you, Mom.

So through all this introspection, I went back to Divine Mercy, not really believing the promises to St. Faustina, but I really wanted to. I needed to believe, and I needed mercy.

But I could not leave the life I was living behind me. I could not, in good conscience, come to Jesus begging for his mercy without a true desire to change. Somehow I understood this, so I put the pamphlet down again.

Then finally, I picked it up, and I found a rosary buried in a box somewhere, and I prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I apologized to Jesus that I could not go to Confession, but I begged for Mercy just the same.

I think I might have prayed it a few other times, and then put it away again.

I credit Divine Mercy for bringing me home, for it was shortly after these prayers that my struggle to return to Confession began in earnest. I began going to Mass somewhat regularly, almost always receiving communion, but still feeling like an outsider. I always sat in the back of the church, not wanting to approach the Holy of Holies, as though Jesus didn't know I was there!

And he drew me on, even as I ran away...His Mercy continued to endure. I so desired mercy, but I was terrified to approach. I could not trust. My life had beaten all forms of trust out of me, such that I could not even trust God.

Jesus never gave up on me, and he doused me with those rays of Mercy until finally, finally, I came home. In my conversion story I explained some of that experience, the agony and ecstasy of it, but I don't think mere words can possibly convey the reality of this incredible experience of Divine Mercy.

When I bought my townhome, I had bare walls, so I requested art for Christmas and birthday gifts. Specifically religious art. I can't remember if I requested Divine Mercy specifically or whether the Lord put it on her heart, but my Mom gave me a Divine Mercy image which I had blessed on Divine Mercy Sunday a couple years ago. It now hangs on my livingroom wall next to a very realistic crucified Jesus, and I find that I cannot venerate one without the other, for they are one in the same.

I have another picture that combines the Sacred Heart of Jesus (another image I grew up with) and the rays of Divine Mercy. No one can enter my home without seeing these things.

Thanks be to God, the Divine Mercy of Jesus brought me home and to this day envelopes me in all my sinfulness, all my imperfections, and brings me to him with all his Divine Love.

If you are struggling with your faith, if you have been away for a long time, just pray this have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

For those interested, my Conversion story can be found here. Warning: many links!