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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sanctus Domuinus Deus Sabaoth

This morning I drove through terribly slippery roads, risking my life to get to St. Agnes for the 10:00 am Mass. (Quite literally it was dangerous...I watched a car nearly spin out, and another slid through a stop sign as I approached the intersection. A VERY close call!)

The reason for braving this danger? To attend a first ever Extraordinary Form Mass, the first there in 40 years. They regularly have a Latin Novus Ordo, which I have attended - and love. But I've never been to what is often called a TLM (Traditional Latin Mass), so it was with great joy that I mounted the steps into this beautiful church.

I happen to have a borrowed St. Andrew missal, which was marked for the first Sunday in Advent, but set it aside in favor of the materials provided by St. Agnes, which had the Mass laid out in a booklet and an additional leaflet containing the specific readings for today.

It was a beautiful Mass, although I can't say I had any idea what was going on at any given time. Except here and there...I recognized the Kyrie, a few other things, the consecration was somewhat obvious, etc, although done a little differently, and, of course, in Latin.

There were a few kinks; for example, where the booklet directed us to stand, people sat...some stood, though. And where maybe we were supposed to sit, we were standing. It was VERY confusing. On one occasion, although the book said to stand, the deacon signaled for us to be seated. Of course, I have no idea of there were any mistakes made at the altar...I was a bit too focused on my own incompetence to worry about anyone else's!

And perhaps that's the best lesson to be learned on the First Sunday of Advent.

Because I was so lost, and so without understanding, and yet, still KNOWING that God was present, that it was Christ on that altar...I can't think of a better way to begin this season. The reverence given to Christ during the preparation before Mass began, the incense at different points, and all the activity directed to Our Lord was striking.

I found myself apologizing to Our Lord for my distraction, for not knowing what was going on, realizing my "apologies" were fully unnecessary, so I settled back and surrendered to trying to just be present. For, as long as I was at Mass, I could not be truly lost. It's the closest to Home any of us can get while still walking this earth.

It was perhaps somewhere around that point that I "got it". It's not the first Mass I've attended that was celebrated ad orientum, and I've long said that the worst "reform" that came after Vatican II was turning the altar around. Today, that came home to me even more directly as I witnessed the consecration from a completely different attitude.

It's hard to put into words, maybe impossible.

Mass was humbling today. I felt like a child. I could not "participate" in any real way, not even able to truly enter into any of the prayers. Following the guide, following the actions, recognizing only a few things; it was as though I was an infant. We who have grown up since the 60's have been fed a very improper idea of what the term "participation" means, and even though I am aware of its true meaning, I find that I STILL had to divest myself of my own images in order to surrender to what God wanted me to understand. And that's truly what is beyond words, and what is really so...humbling.

In looking at the Priest on the high altar, knowing that he was offering prayers for us, and, in reading some of those prayers he silently offers, I saw them in a new light. There he was, speaking for us...because we cannot. Praying for us...because we cannot pray for ourselves. Offering the Sacrifice for us, on our behalf, pleading with God...for us.

Knowing that even if I was the only one there, his prayers would be the same, his posture the same, his pleading...the same.

It was fitting that I feel like a child, that I see my insignificance in the presence of the great Majesty of God, and my unworthiness in the face of the Divine Victim offered...for me.

It was fitting to see the Priest praying on my behalf, facing God, facing the same direction as the rest of us; our representative before God. None of us knows how we should pray, or even how to approach God. And although we do all often pray for each other and ourselves, perhaps sometimes we need to learn to stop, rest in silence, and allow thousands of years of wisdom intercede for us, wash over us, and invite us into mysteries we can't fathom without God's grace.

I think my compass has been reset, and so it is with a different attitude that I enter this Advent season. To know I am still a child, I haven't even the abilities to come close to understanding the depths of what's happening at Mass, much less understanding God!

And the only way to approach Our Lord is from a foundation of humility. Knowing what we are the face of Who God Is.

Throughout the next few weeks, I'm going to remember my insignificance in the face of God's Majesty, and my dependence upon Him for all things.

And I hope to remember this lesson forever.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ignoring the Obvious

SANCTE PATER: Be careful not to offend gay worshippers, Catholic priests warned

For some reason, homosexual activists, like the Hollywood divas, have some kind of crazy idea that the world revolves around them. They think they have a "vote" in something they clearly know nothing about or have outright rejected.

We must be very clear: the Church does not exist as an admiration society for whatever popular immoral issue happens to be running the headlines. The Church, in fact, is a hospital for SINNERS. She is concerned with the salvation of SINNERS. Jesus Christ died for SINNERS...and that would be ALL of us. Including practicing homosexuals.

They should be flattered that the Church doesn't cave into their demands to accept their lifestyle, for if she did, that would mean that she didn't love them and that Christ, her Bridegroom, does not love them. The very fact that the Catholic Church continues to stand up for the sacramentality of heterosexual marriage (thus for LIFE) is directly indicative of her love of homosexuals.

Personally, I'm thrilled to be given the title of "sinner" and a place to go for help. That means both that I'm loved and that I have the dignity given to me by God that indicates I still have the ability to reject what is evil in favor of virtue and all those things that are of God.

The second the Church starts affirming me in my own favorite sins, I will realize that I am no longer loved by God.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Lose Your Language, Lose Your Culture

Back in 1994 when I lived in Mexico, we took a "study-trip" to Cuetzalan, which is a little puebla in the Sierra Madres. We walked the few kilometers to the local village belonging to the decendents of the Mexicas (commonly called "Aztecs"), who still speak as a first language that ancient tongue of Nauhatl. San Miguel Tzinacapan (St. Michael at the top of the noble mountain) consisted of homes of varying sorts; most had dirt floors, cooking implements akin to that of colonial America (or before), and in most ways, the people were still living much of the ancient lifestyle. Their religion was Catholic, but with the flavor of their culture; the ancient dances, such as the one that used to honor the god Quetzalcoatl (the feathered serpent) was danced in order to honor the One True God on special feast days. Likewise, the Voladores would dance on the top of a high pole and fly downward, on those same feast days.

Lessons from the Ancients

On the day we arrived, we were treated to these dances, for it was the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel, the patron of their city. The Church, built during the colonization of Mexico, was the center of the town, and Mass, the center of their lives.

It was amazing; they had lost nothing of who they were, but had embraced all they could be. It wasn't about materialism; it was about God. Life was about loving God and loving neighbor, even we, the strangers, as they welcomed us into their town and into their homes.

But we heard one dominating complaint, both there, and in articles written in various publications. It came up in class lectures, and is perhaps one of the biggest lessons I took with me from that experience: the young people were ashamed of their history. They had grown up first with their own culture, and then learned the adaptations to mainstream culture, that of the Spanish language and contemporary Mexican culture. They were being well educated in their towns, sent out to learn even more, and they were learning to be ashamed. They were TRYING to forget their ancient language.

Their elders were concerned; for if they lost their language, they would lose the rest of their culture as well. For their culture wasn't just a bunch of trappings, but was something far greater which was bound to them by their common language. It was the language that could properly define the culture and traditions they carried.

Their language was the key.

American Culture

America, as we've all learned from grade school, is a "melting-pot". It's a bunch of people from a bunch of places that nearly erased the native peoples in favor of what has come to be known as "tolerance" which tolerates only popular opinion.

As Americans, we have no culture. Although English is our common language, we're even losing that. We still see hints of the various people who came to live in this country; the Irish, the Germans, the Italians, the Spanish, and more recently, the Nigerians, the Somalians, the Hmong, the Vietnamese, and all those refugees from Mexico, Central America, and South America.

There are pockets of religiosity which are becoming smaller, but more intense. As we enter into this Holiday (Holy-Day) season, the culture wars become more obvious. The religious versus the secular. The secularist hodgepodge trying to erase any semblance of culture in the name of "tolerance", which tolerates nothing but the gray.

Overall, we have nothing that we share in common. Not even our language, anymore. We are all screamed at to be more "tolerant", and in this tolerance, we find that nothing is tolerable, for everything that defines us in a particular group, especially religious, is not acceptable in this society.

Many years ago my Mom was taking a class in Native American Studies. I went with her to a pow-wow where she spoke with a woman who observed, "America has no culture." I didn't understand then, but I do now. SHE had a culture; it was very easy for her to see how we did not; she was sad for us, my mother and I, who had lost ours. She saw us as orphans.

She was right.

Cultural Catholicism

Catholics were known from the beginning, for we stood out in the pagan culture. Our ways were documented in the Letter to Diognetus, and those same premises stand today...if we let them.

But there was more.

The Catholic Church is commonly identified in the media as ONLY the Roman Catholic Church, but there are many more Rites; the Maronite, the Syriac, the Ruthenian, the Byzantine...there are many. Each in union with Rome. We are united in our beliefs, under the Vicar of Christ, and the Roman Rite (Latin Rite) used to be more recognizable by our liturgy which was held in Latin, our common language. It was the largest Rite of the Church, and remains so...and is also, today, the most FRACTURED of Rites, for we have lost our language....and thus, our culture.

Vatican II was a very good thing and did make many reforms. However, the documents stated clearly that although the vernacular was to be given more freedom, such as in the readings and in the Gospel, the common language of Latin was to remain, as was the musical heritage of Gregorian Chant. The latter, which is purely in Latin, was to "maintain a high place" in the liturgy.

Yet, we've seen the systematic attack against this common language since the late 1960's so much so that Latin, as the main root of the English language, isn't even taught anymore. The prejudice against Latin and the Roman Church is so strong that classical education has been completely lost in this country.

Especially among Latin-Rite Catholics themselves.

This loss is horrific, for with the loss of our common language, we have also lost our common culture. After Vatican II, those who did not actually understand the hermeneutic of continuity interpreted them according to the spirit of the age, and attached the term "Spirit of Vatican II", bullying the American Church into accepting "reforms" that had NEVER been intended. It erased our language, cleansed our churches of art and beauty, and made us utilitarian in our newfound protestantism.

From the new "visionaries" that arose out of the pot-induced smog of the 1960's came the idea that Latin was the root of all that was wrong in the Church, and it MUST be QUASHED at any cost.

So it remains even today, even after we've emerged from the disorienting scent of weed into the growing popularity and clarity of pure incense, people hear the word "Latin" and automatically turn into war machines. It has become such a point of contention that those on both sides of the issue have seemed to become polar opposites, refusing even to see those things that truly divide them.

Latin is the symbol, but it isn't the problem, nor is it the cause. Even as it remains to be the key.

Have you noticed that this dichotomy does not exist in the other Catholic Rites? They have NEVER lost their common languages. ALL of their ancient traditions remain in place.

It is the Latin-Rite Church that is struggling, for our common bond has been lost. We lost the key to our culture, and we haven't been able to access it or understand it ever since.

There is something to be said for a common language. There is something to be said for allowing the vernacular, but with a common thread of a language we ALL understand, no matter where we are in the world. To know that those in Vietnam are hearing the Consecration in Latin, and understanding know that those in Germany are hearing the Sanctus in Latin...and are singing along. To know that those in Mexico are raising their voices in the Latin....warms my heart.

We are not just united through Holy Communion, but through our language and our culture. I have been in contact with Catholics all over the world, and know that, if we all spoke Latin, we would be even more closely bonded.

The American Church, the Roman Church as a whole, lost our language, and that was only the first step. We've lost nearly our entire culture.

Those who claim to be "cultural Catholics" cite things they remember prior to the "reforms" of Vatican II. But they don't even live those things out today, and dissent against all those things CLEARLY taught by the Church, in the common vernacular. The popular media, when portraying ANYTHING Catholic, falls back on Gregorian Chant, upon statues, stained glass, and high altars, for those things are our true culture.

Are you seeing this? Those who dissent...claim as their own things they've never seen, or remember ONLY from their childhood. And those who observe, do not portray the Church in America as she is, but as she used to be, in all her beauty.

Even THEY see Truth and recognize what is right...even as they arm themselves in battle in order to defile her.

Yet we have an entire generation or so trying to lose that culture, and who have done everything they could to erase it even from their own memories. The memories they claim define them as "Cultural Catholics".

We, who survived the self-destructive tendencies of the now-graying and dying Baby Boomers are trying to revive the war-torn parishes, restoring what has been lost. Our dear Pope Benedict XVI has heard our cries and has made a huge move not only to restore the Mass as it was prior to Vatican II, but to reconcile those who reacted too strongly to what was wrong, and went into schizm.

Our culture is coming back; our true culture. It is no mistake that the most identifiable part of this culture is the Latin language.

The world calls Latin a "dead" language, and it also claims triumphantly that the Church is "dying". Yet, in my entire life on this earth, I've never seen more life in the Church than there is today with the ongoing restoration of all that has been lost, from the language, to the art, to the liturgy, to the morality going back to the Didache and beyond.

We will not "go back in time". The Novus Ordo is a valid Mass, and I do love it in its own way, for I grew up with this Mass. I accept the authority of our Popes and our Bishops, but I rejoice in the restoration of a history I have never been given a chance to experience.

I have never attended a "pre-Vatican II Mass" for it was only a memory by the time I was born. I've been to a Latin Novus Ordo, and it changed my life. I hope, this weekend to attend the Extraordinary Rite (ie "pre-Vatican II Mass") this weekend at St. Agnes, and even though I don't expect to understand anything going on...I embrace it as an experience in true culture.

You can destroy a civilization by destroying their language; the Catholic Church is far stronger than that, and refuses to devalue that which the rest of the world has defined as "obsolete".

I understand the concerns of the Elders at San Miguel Tzinacapan, and I thank them for sharing their wisdom. I pray they are well, that their children will grow to embrace their history instead of destroy it, and that God will have mercy on the Church in America and throughout the world.

The Day After

I spent Thanksgiving at my brother's house, always enjoyable. Last year I stayed through Friday night, as well and went home Saturday. But this year, because I need to study for my finals I knew I needed to get home. So they packed me up a veritable feast of Thanksgiving leftovers, and then some, and I headed on my way.

Now, in order to get home, I had to travel along 494 through the Bloomington strip. Typically, even mid-day on a regular Friday, while traffic might be slow due to all the entrance and exit ramps to the various stores and strip malls, today it was nearly at a standstill. Lyndale Ave., 35 W, and especially Penn Ave. were the worst offenders. Thankfully, once I got past all that, it was decent traffic for the rest of my way home.

Next year I'll have to maybe find a way to study at my brother's house so I don't have to endure Black Friday traffic. I don't even want to be out on the road ever again on this particular day!

It is nice to be home, though...but I need a nap before I'll be able to understand the Summa enough to find the answers in it that I need.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and for those travelling, a safe trip back home.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Summa: The Defects of the Mystical Body of Christ

Research note from Adoro: I found another cutting from the Summa Theologica, one of the pieces found with the Q. Documents. Amazing that it addresses so many of the questions we find today. If you would like to see the other cuttings I've found, check this link and scroll down. It addresses such questions as Blessing Beer and meeting people over the Internet...which truly flummoxed the one making objections. In any is St. Thomas Aquina's answer as to the hypocritical nature of those who faithfully attend Mass. I've found it to be very timely and enlightening.

Article 1: On the Nature of the Defective Nature of Mass-Goers

Objection 1: It would seem that those who attend Mass are hypocrites. They go to Mass on Sunday and throughout the rest of the week, they're complete jerks. They don't practice what they preach. They're holier-than-thou and I don't like them.

Objection 2: Further, I can worship God on my own, in private. Because in scripture it states in Mt 6:6: "When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. " Therefore, it is better to pray on one's own than it is to risk offending the Father by praying in the sight of others.

Objection 3: My Protestant friends don't go to church on Sunday and they say they're Saved. So it doesn't make sense that Catholics have to go to Mass especially considering they're jerks anyway and I'd rather go hunting or to hockey than spend time with those jerks.

On the contrary: It is clear that the Church as the Mystical Body arose out of the side of Christ after His death on the cross, and made her beginnings on Pentecost. For just as the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary so that Christ would be conceived, so the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Apostles as they were in community, in order to give life to the Mystical Body. As Christ died in public humiliation, so the Church enters into communion through first public acknowledgment of our own sins in the Penitential Rite. The People of God had always had a community; our faith arises out of the community of our Jewish brothers and sisters, preserving the Law which was fulfilled in Christ, written in the New Testament, and carried out today through Apostolic Tradition and Scripture.

I answer that, it is fitting that hypocritical sinners come together in common to acknowledge guilt and learn to become holy, that Christ did not intend solitary worship, and that basing one's spirituality upon heretical ideals and personal preferences makes one a bigger hypocrite that those who actually admit they are not perfect human beings and are seeking to do better through the assistance of their likewise less-than-perfect pewmates.

Reply to Objection 1: Mass, and the Church as a whole, made up of the Magisterium, the Priests, the Laity, assigned to parish communities throughout cities and towns and dioceses and archdioceses throughout the world, was brought into being in order to save sinners. As it says in Mt 9: 10-13: " While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples.11 The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" 12 He heard this and said, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. 13 Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' 10 I did not come to call the righteous but sinners." Thus, it would seem that if those attending Mass are hypocrites and jerks the rest of the week, then they are in exactly the right place. You should join them unless you're already one of the righteous. Because if you are, Christ didn't come for you and doesn't love the righteous anywhere near as much as He loves sinners and hypocrites.

Reply to Objection 2: Certainly one can and should worship God on one's own. Such is holy and good, however is not sufficient in and of itself. Christ called His people into a community, began the Church in a community, and through Baptism, completed in Confirmation, one is made a member of the Mystical Body of Christ. Each is called into this kind of communion. All have gifts to contribute to the whole, and when one member is suffering, the entire Body suffers in union. When one member is lost, all are lessened by that loss. Further, all souls are lacking in virtue and obtain those virtues by way of others, especially in enduring their failings. By refusing to endure the failings of other jerks, one fails to rise out of one's own sinful mire of self-righteousness.

Reply to Objection 3: It is a poverty to cite theology lacking in logic, and even further, to cite the heretical ideas of the "Reform" era which arose from demonically-influenced "theology" and the minimalist philosophy of Ockham whose ideas nearly single-handedly with Luther (his follower) lead to the socialist welfare system still in place today. The idea that one is "saved" while still committing sin is a seriously flawed way to dismiss oneself from the mortal sin of intentionally skipping Mass. Especially when the Protestant doctrine cited both does not understand what the Mass is (or they would not continue to protest) and that their man-made doctrine of salvation is flawed even to the cited philosophical foundations of their ideal. Thus, just because a Protestant does something does not mean that Catholics are held to that low bar. In we have been given much, we have much more to give, and owe a greater debt of gratitude to the God who comes to us each day through Holy Mass and through the Sacraments. As the Protestants do not have these gifts, they cannot understand why we MUST attend Mass, and the great benefit of enduring the jerkiness of others in order to be drawn closer to Our Crucified Lord.

I further answer that, to cite personal preference and the unsavoriness of other churchgoers as a reason to skip Mass reveals the foundational sin of Pride and is an outright denial of the need of a personal Lord and Savior. To knowingly choose hockey or hunting over Mass is akin to choosing Eternal Damnation.

Hospital for Sinners

So many people who claim to be "spiritual" but not "religious" or choose not to go to Mass, or, if non-Catholic, to not enter into a Christian community of some sort cite as a defense a very tired line:

"Those people are just hypocrites. They preach all these things and don't live it."

Right. Exactly.

I've often had to bite my tongue rather than ask the person making such a "defense" whether they live up to the Christian life themselves, or are they just afraid of being exposed as a sinner like everyone else they condemn with such a statement?

I'm not sure who pointed this out to me, but the Church, our worship as a community as Christ called us to be, is a Hospital for Sinners. We do not go to Mass because we're a bunch of Saints who live perfectly each virtue. Would that it were true, but, alas, after the sin of Adam we can't seem to get back to Eden.

That's why we need Christ. That's why we go to receive Him in the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion. Because we're sinners. And yes, hypocrisy is a sin. Not all of us engage in that one...if you're a hypocrite and you admit it, you're on the right path. And you're very much welcome in the Catholic Church; we can help you find your way to TRUE reconciliation so God's grace can put an end to your hypocrisy. Eventually.

What is hypocrisy, really? Just not living up to what you believe and preach?


That's why I go to Confession so often. However, it doesn't make the Truth I advance, the Truth that comes from Holy Mother Church, from Jesus Christ Himself, any less valid.

As Father Corapi once said, "Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of an He's still doing it today!"

But what of those seeking more? Called to something different?

Religious Life

I've never been under the impression that those called to the priesthood or religious life are necessarily more holy than anyone else. I've cited a certain personality, but I never said they were holier than anyone else. Additionally, I've looked at religious life from the perspective of my own background and knowledge of flawed human nature: I escaped a dysfunctional family and roommates from hell. Why would I CHOOSE to enter into such a situation again?

Because God calls, and He CAN be refused (free will and all), but isn't it better to acknowledge what we know is coming and be willing to choose it anyway? Out of love for God?

Recently I came across an article citing the stereotype that Nuns and Sisters and Monks and Friars and Priests are all nearly Saints, and when they enter formation, they're nearly perfect already. The article of course ripped that idea to shreds, and suggested that the MONASTERY was a hospital for sinners.

One cannot expect to enter a hospital and find healthy people there. Even the doctors could be taken ill by the very diseases he is trying to cure. Such happened to many Saints and Blesseds who cared for the sick.

But the comparison still didn't work, given that the first premise I already understood was that the Church down the street, the one I attend, or the one I work at, or the one I already Hospital for Sinners.

I can accept that Religious Life operates on the same premise, but maybe in a more intense manner. This is seen especially reading the works of the Saints.

For class, I've been reading St. Teresa of Avila's "Interior Castle. " I've learned a couple things: I am DEFINITELY NOT Carmelite, (not that that was in question) and....the Sisters in the community aren't Saints, even though the author of the book herself has been declared so. (And the reason is obvious). However, their formation is FAR more intense than that of the average Catholic. They were a cloistered community, living in common, praying in common, dealing with their own various problems and common. I imagine that no sin is truly hidden in such close quarters.

So, by following logic, it seems to me that if one's own parish is a Hospital...wouldn't that mean that those entering the seminary or religious life are truly so in need that they are called to an Intensive Care Unit for sinners?

That is a far more appealing idea to me. Both as a Sinner AND as a Sinner who recognizes she might be entering back into a world of conflicting personalities and possibly outright dysfunction (given fallen human nature).

Yet that reality is NOT something that excludes holiness. St. Catherine of Siena revealed how all virtues are obtained through one's neighbor. Thus...we are made holier by loving our neighbor geographically and those in our own parish community. That potential of holiness can increase when one lives in an even closer community; such as a monastery or, even the family.


Bring me to a Hospital full of Sinners ANY day. Because it's a LOT easier to be a hypocritical sinner in the company of others who realize what they are than it is to be a hypocritical sinner dying all alone.

At least there's hope for recovery in the Church...there sure isn't outside of it.

I don't want to die alone without the opportunity of loving others.

Death and Thanksgiving

Today I received an emailed prayer request from a friend. Her cousin Monica has been battling cancer, and last week she was diagnosed with brain cancer. They didn't expect her to live past December.

This was followed by another, more shocking email; the cancer was in other organs and they had given her 24 hours.

I just received a third email; Monica passed away this very afternoon.

As the rest of the world gives thanks for all sorts of random and inane things, and eats big meals and plans to go shopping at the great cathedrals to the gods of Consumerist Materialism, that family will stil be mourning one of their own. And they will keenly feel that loss throughout Advent and Christmas as well.

Tomorrow, when you sit down for Thanksgiving with your family, do not forget to thank God for your family, for your friends, for your health, and your life.

Please keep Monica and her family in your prayers.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Silence in Humiliation

Every so often I get into an introspective mood, and, in reflecting upon different things, I find not just answers...but ever-deeper questions.

Of late, I've thought a lot about humiliations. We have all suffered them. Sometimes the humiliation seems worse from our own perspective, but outside observers in reality didn't even notice them. This phenomena reveals not so much the situation, but, through our sense of embarassment, our own Pride, especially when we attach more significance than do others.

But sometimes the humiliation is real, and in that moment, we have to decide how to react when we know any reaction is going to be a personal loss.

A particular incident came to mind today, one I'd prefer to forget, and of which I've never spoken to anyone in my life, nor do I intend to reveal the details here. There were many witnesses, there was an aggressor...and I remained silent, refusing to give in to the provokation.

Some of you may remember the bizarre scene from "Saving Private Ryan" where the Nazi soldier slowly pushed a knife into the heart of an American in the midst of war-blasted ruins, shushing him in an oddly comforting way, as though only giving a vaccination to a child. It was brutal, tangible evil juxtaposed against silence and shock, understanding and disbelief, cruelty and comfort, melding all into one.

That scene is eerily like mine; a "knife" being slowly inserted into my heart as I tried to maintain a flat affect, showing neither anger nor fear (although I do remember a bit of defiance which surely must have shown.) My aggressor and her friend were also weirdly silent, for their very actions were far more than words. I can still see the hard glitter in their eyes, the cruel curve of their eyebrows, the haughty twitch at the corners of their mouths as the torture was carried out. The noise in the hallway faded away if only in my imagination. I still remember meeting my enemy's eyes, and then she turned away with her shadow, disappearing back into the wall of faceless teenage humanity. I walked down the hallway to my next class, resolving not to cry, not to show any weakness.

It is in remembering these things, now with a perspective of faith, that I have come to see a greater lesson in that humiliation. It is from there that I can see Christ, and know the same silence in the face of persecution.

It is from there that I can understand forgiveness, for it wasn't I who was being killed; it was the one carrying out the aggression who had the greater loss of dignity. In seeing that, it's easier to forgive. It's easier to unite my sufferings to that of My Lord, for He experienced what I did, and far worse...for me. Carried me.

It used to be that I was ashamed of my silence in that moment, but over time, through a less emotional persepctive, I learned to see that silence in the face of that personal injustice was far better than retaliation or even defense, which would have provoked my aggressor to even greater depths. Instead, I think she might have been unnerved.

Silence of The Lamb

Of late, I've been thinking a great deal about the silence of Christ in His Passion. I can envision his bloody countenance, mute in the face of King Herod's taunts. As one person recently observed, what does that say about the state of Herod that Christ refused to speak to him?


And consider Peter, who denied Christ. In the movie, the Passion of the Christ, just after his last denial he looked up into the sorrowful, uncondemning visage of Jesus....and was convicted. It makes us realize that it is only when Our Lord looks upon us in mercy and silence that we can recognize our sin and our guilt. Only when we fail to squirm under that gaze of sacrifical love do we know we are truly condemned.

Silence can speak volumes, especially in humiliation. And that silence echoes until the lesson is learned and taken to heart.

God, grant me even greater humiliations, so that I will love You more deeply and convict myself more firmly. Amen.


We Bring You This Update...

...on my life.

As if it's interesting. Because it's not.

On the dog

She seems to be better....two days in a row and no mess! And of course she LOVES her hamburger and rice mixture (which is really heavy on the rice but she doesn't seem to care).

On Sunday I gave her a bath...remind me never to do that again. It is SO worth paying a groomer to do a proper job and it involves a LOT less cleaning when it's done! That dog shook and flooded the entire bathroom. OH...and she wasn't even in the tub at that point!

She needed a bath badly, and considering we're spending Thanksgiving at my brother's house, well, it was just time. And tomorrow, she's coming with me to work.

I work in a very dog-friendly office as most of us have our own pets. She came with me once before, but most of my co-workers weren't in at the time. They will be in tomorrow for at least part of the day, and we have a special visitor coming to our office. She will CERTAINLY be surprised to see my happy shepherd greet her at the door! I can't wait to see our visitor's expression of joy. :-)


Studying for tests is painful. I've been laboring away at it, and hope to get through some more tonight. We'll see how that goes. I never seem to accomplish as much as I plan in a given time, although it seems that in the end it all works out.

After our next class in December, we will be half-way done with the Master's program. 3 semesters left! A year and a half!

I'm trying to stay positive when I look at that long stretch and count the cost both financially and in terms of study hours, but graduates tell me it really is worth it. I'm going to choose to believe them.


My car payment this month revealed that I have about $1800 left to pay on the loan. There is a delayed payment from this last summer that they granted me, and that delays the payoff by one month past the original maturity date, but it's not making much difference in the overall; I got the loan at a 6% rate. (My first car loan was at 14%!)

So...any volunteers out there want to send me a check for about $1600 to pay off my car?


Okay. I didn't think so. Just thought I'd ask.

Gotta say, though it sure does feel good to see the end of at least ONE debt payment within sight. You all know what I mean. Especially in this economy!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Exercise in Futility

Sometimes life is brutal, and we are beaten...badly.

Back when I was at the training tower for the Fire Dept., we had to climb onto a structure built specifically to teach us how to chop through a roof. We stood on roof ladders and chopped (with dull-bladed axes) through wooden pallets.

I still remember swinging with all my might at a rotted-looking wooden pallet. It literally looked as though I could STEP on the center of it and break the wood...yet my blade would not cut it. So I swung and swung again, my axe constantly bounding back at me, the wood barely even marked.

Finally, a friend of mine, fellow firefighter cadet B., stopped what he was doing and explained that it was better to hit near the frame, and he demonstrated on his own pallet. He even showed me the recoil in the center, explaining wouldn't break in there because there was too much rebound; it was too flexible and absorbed the impact. FF. B.  said that I was hitting with enough power that the thing should be turning to tootpicks...but wasn't because I was striking the wrong point.

I literally stood up there and ARGUED with him, even as I watched him decimate another pallet. For you see...B. was a big muscle-laden guy. His "power swings" were atomic in comparison to my swats. I DID try to hit a few points, with his coaching, but the wood still wouldn't break.

And there was a certain amount of fear; the pallets were placed over a window-shaped grid, and one wrong step might mean falling through into the fresh pile of wooden spikes below, the pallets that had built up there throughout the day. (This was therefore indeed true-to-life on-the-job-training.)  Thus, I could break the rungs closest to me, but stepping off the ladder and swinging outward, where the weight and the momentum might throw me off-balance and into the pit below...well, that was terrifying to me.

Thus, I have to admit, my fear was a factor. The old fear, (falling)  rearing its head. I ended up returning to my rebounding swings, convinced the wood would break...because as anyone could see, it was weak in the center.

The funny thing was, the wood was strongest where it appeared to be weak, and I was weakest where I appeared to be strong.

In the end, I failed not because the wood refused to break; but because I refused to break. It was my own obstinance that was the direct cause of my failure. Finally, I was too exhausted to continue, I was beginning to get dizzy in the late summer heat, and my frustrated swings, even in the correct position, lacked the power to do much other than smash a random fly, if even that. As it was, I am certain some of my swings wouldn't even have taken the life of the tiniest fly.

The Captain finally ordered me off of the roof, directing me to get water, and asked my friend, B., to finish off my pallet. My descent of shame was barely noticed by my fellow cadets, but it was one of my first failures at the Tower, and added immensely to the doubt that had taken root in me; that I wouldn't make it through training.

As it was, I didn't finish.. I was injured a week later, I graduated with my class on light duty status, and in the process of rehabilitation, I was let go...with references. But the lessons from the Tower still guide me as they reveal both my own strengths and weaknesses...both of which were ultimately part of my journey to God.

I am reminded that no matter how futile seems the task in front of us, often it's not the task itself that has any is in the lessons inherent in the completion of our task.

Even as I remember my descent of shame and exhaustion, I am grateful for those lessons and wouldn't change that history even if I could.

So often we fight against God as He asks us to accept our weaknesses, not relying on our own strength. We are so prideful so as to reject even the most logical of assistance, wanting to go at things in our own way, CERTAIN that our abilities are sufficient. Yet they are not, and so we find ourselves flailing in vain, and it is only by God's grace that the axe-head doesn't fly off the handle and give us what we deserve for our obstinance.

All we need is a little humility...and that opens the doors to success greater than anything we could ever envision. Because the success is not ours, but Our Lord's.

As from the Gospel of today (Luke 21:1-4) not fear to give EVERYTHING, for it's not in what we have that gives us glory; it is what we are willing to offer, in what we are willing to suffer, that changes us and opens us up to what GOD has planned. All we can truly offer is from our own poverty, our own weakness, and there, God is glorified.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Scandal of Silence

I didn't grow up prior to Vatican II, but I did grow up learning that when one enters a church, one is silent, for one is in the very presence of God.

The Holy of Holies.

The ONLY proper behavior in such august presence is for mortal flesh to remain silent in recollection; for we are there to meet God Himself, and who are we to speak to Him? It was a lesson of humility, even before I knew the word, a lesson in proper manners, proper etiquette (for if someone is praying, we don't want to disturb them), and a lesson in speaking in hushed tones.

I'll never forget those early days of entering a church, Mom helping me remove my coat and giving last minute instructions including reminders to be silent in our entrance. Any interruption inside was met with a firm finger to the lips, a universal signal of mothers to their children to HUSH!

After Mass, sometimes Mom would bring us to the altar, where she would point out the tabernacle. Once she asked Father if we might approach, and as we did, we knew from her own behavior what a holy place this was. We knew never to play on the altar, to never scream or run around the area, and certainly never to touch those things which we did not have permission to touch.

All of this, over time, instilled in us the necessity of silence. It was about proper behavior even though we didn't properly understand why, or who would even WANT to be silent for any period of time at all!

Even in my time away from the practice of my faith, whenever I entered the church...any church, in fact, I knew to be quiet. In Mexico, when touring churches, automatically I fell silent, both in awe and in recognizing I was in a holy place. Mom taught me well: even when I wasn't a practicing Catholic, I knew how to behave.

It seems not everyone benefitted from the same upbringing. For example, just today I entered my church to hear the singing group warming up and singing portions of their songs. Now, I've been in choir, and I know that it's not necessary to practice before Mass in the sanctuary itself. A side room works just fine. Maybe a brief warmup with the proper piano, but short and sweet is all that is necessary.

But no...we got the whole Mass in broken concert in the fifteen minutes before Mass actually began, and then a prelude of "How Great Thou Art", sung just fine, but very loudly and intrusively.

I'm not against preludes, but there was NO silence at any point between the time I entered this morning to the time I left.


You'd think the Catholic Church was getting into popular radio. So many of us enter early wanting to pray the rosary, or Morning Prayer, or just remain silent in recollection before Mass...but no. We go early in hopes of having even a few moments, before the noisy crowds come cawing in, chatting, hobnobbing like a bunch of crows fighting over some sumptious piece of carrion.

My particular parish has a very large "gathering space" (I shudder at the term, actually), and after Mass, we regularly have coffee and donuts or what-have-you. Not to mention TONS of other wonderful social community events. It is quite the vibrant place.

The great irony is that although we have these things, the only people not receiving the spiritual care we all need are those of us who KNOW that the Lord deserves our awed silence before and after Mass.

The heretical "lateral theology" of Mass being "for the people" and about the people" has become so widespread that there is very little honor being given to God. Symptoms: short confession lines, long communion lines. Talking in the church before and after Mass. People genuflecting to the altar...but walking past the tabernacle without a second glance. People acknowledging every single person in their vision...but not acknowledging Christ who longs for their attention.

And there seems to be this weird unmitigated and completely irrational fear on the part of these "lateral theology" sorts and their leaders, the music directors and liturgists. What is WITH the obsessive-compulsive reaction to erase any possible moment of silence?

We're not watching TV!

Why is silence so scandalous?

Is it because when there is silence, we finally find ourselves in that original solitude before God...and in the danger we might recognize ourselves as we ARE and not as we imagine ourselves to be? Is it because we are so dependant upon the culture of dependence that if some Haugen-Haas propaganda isn't being thrown at us we don't know what to do with ourselves?

Is it because we are so lost in a crowd that can be reverently silent that we must disrupt it at all costs for fear we might start asking questions about the problematic morals of our culture and our secular leaders, and in those questions, convict ourselves of our own societal guilt?

Is it because silence fosters the ability to actually THINK and we might be scandalized by the fact that some of the things happening around us are the very same things that lead to the siege of Jerusalem?

Is it because the lack of silence allows us to keep our heads in the sand and not consider the voice of God echoing in our hearts, or the law that is written upon our hearts and imprinted upon our souls?

Bring back the silence. Enforce it. We have ushers. We have the ability to make nice signs, and we have a wonderful PA system that someone can utilize at the beginning of Mass and at the end of Mass (for a few weeks) to ask parishioners to remember sacred silence, if not for ourselves than for those who DO wish to pray.

I'm constantly amazed by the lateral theology crowd that is all about doing stuff for others...but when it comes to God, and someone wanting to spend time with God...the attitude is that the interlude must be filled with socializing.

Prayer is not even honored in our own churches. We are bullied into singing, we are bullied into applauding, and we are bullied away from the reverence due Christ in order to misplace that reverence on the altar of self-esteem of whoever-might-be-in-the-spotlight.

Silence is sacred and reveals the sacred to those who are willing to listen. Can't we please have a single place in this world where we can come to kneel in silent awe before Our Lord and not be disrupted by the spirit of the age?

Hymn: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

1. Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand;
ponder nothing earthly-minded,
for with blessing in his hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
our full homage to demand.

2. King of kings, yet born of Mary,
as of old on earth he stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
in the body and the blood;
he will give to all the faithful
his own self for heavenly food.

3. Rank on rank the host of heaven
spreads its vanguard on the way,
as the Light of light descendeth
from the realms of endless day,
that the powers of hell may vanish
as the darkness clears away.

4. At his feet the six-winged seraph,
cherubim, with sleepless eye,
veil their faces to the presence,
as with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia,
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

Advice to all Bloggers from St. Paul

From the wisdom found at Vultus Christi:

Finally, bloggers, whatever is true,
whatever is honourable,
whatever is just,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is gracious,
if there is any excellence,
if there is anything worthy of
praise, blog about these things.

What you have learned and received
and heard and seen in me, do:
and the God of Peace will be with you.

October 5, 2008 Epistle: Philippians 4, 6-9

The Wise and the Foolish

Terry has a wonderful post about virginity and chastity, in the spiritual life, as he quotes his good friend Fr. Mark at Vultus Christi.

Celibacy and chastity and holiness.

Don Marco has an excellent post on the subject, taken from a homily of St. John Chrysostom on the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. Both St. John and Fr. Mark have a marvelous understanding of the primacy of mercy and love in the spiritual life. They point out that both the wise and the foolish virgins obtained a remarkable and exalted grace - that of virginity, chastity, continence, what have you. Both awaited the bridegroom… and when they heard the announcement of his return, only the wise virgins were prepared, while the foolish were not. We all know the story, yet this is what St. John says:

“Virginity then, being a thing in itself so great and so much esteemed among many, lest any man having attained unto it, and kept it undefiled, should think that he hath done all, and so leave the rest undone, the Lord putteth forth this parable, in order to show that if virginity, though it have all else, lack mercy, its owner will have his portion without among the fornicators, among whom Christ doth justly place the heartless and pitiless celibate.

“By the “lamps” spoken of in this parable, the Lord signifieth the actual gift of virginity and holy continency, and by the “oil” gentleness, almsgiving, and helpfulness toward the needy.”
- St. John Chrysostom

Go visit Terry and Fr. Mark and read the rest!


(Gross word warning! ...if you don't have children or pets you might not want to read this.)

I'm a little worried about my German Shepherd. She's been vomiting almost every day. I know from experience that dogs "get sick" on occasion, and it's nothing to worry about most of the time. In fact, in the wild, that's how dogs feed their pups....second hand. (This is common in a lot of animals.) So even though that terrible wretching sound they make makes we as vomit-hating humans cringe and think how painful it must be, for the dogs, it's actually the way they were designed.

In the past I had a dog that went through a "phase" where she seemed to be getting sick a lot. Some of it was caused by eating grass, and the vet thought that maybe they eat grass in order to clean out impurities. There are lots of theories out there so I first hold to the idea that by itself, this process is not as terrible for them as it is for humans.

That said, I do think it's worrisome that my girl is getting sick more than usual. Just this week I cleaned up three messes, last weekend helped her outside quickly, the week before...two other messes. I also just found another mysterious mess, have no idea when it got there but it's getting hit with enzyme cleaner. Which I'm running out of quickly! (I had three types...all are nearing the bottom!)

With dog sicknesses, I know to look at other things; how is their appetite, their eyes (bright?), their coat, their general attitude. For my girl, all is well in those departments. She is happy and energetic as she's always been. And everything is also coming out the other end just fine.

Maybe I'm worried because the last time we went to the vet she (the vet, not the dog) mentioned that German Shepherds are prone to pancreatitis and to be alert for it. I looked up those symptoms...nothing matching what I'm seeing. Although certainly, I'll remain alert for any real illness.

At this point, as my dog sicked up her breakfast this morning, I decided not to feed her for the rest of the day. Maybe she's got something that has to be "eliminated", and of course, fasting for 24 hours won't do her harm. And then I'm going to start her on some bland food...very lean hamburger and rice, recommended by another vet in the past. It was for a different problem, but maybe if it works for problems at the other end, it'll help her tummy, too?

Or maybe I'm being a mother goose? Dog people? At what point do you worry your dog is actually exibiting symptoms that aren't normal?

I really really really can't afford an unnecessary trip to the vet, and I won't go as long as her attitude is normal and she looks at me with big sad eyes when I don't feed her. (Seriously...they can ONLY cultivate that expression when they think they're being deprived of something they think they need.....)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

You CANNOT be Christian and Support Abortion!

This post was originally published on June 22, 2007. Given that Advent begins in a week, and given that this weekend we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, I can think of no better way to honor Him than by fighting for the life of the unborn by citing Jesus as the most perfect example of an "unplanned pregnancy." Those who profess to believe in Christ speak with forked tongues if they proclaim Christ in one moment and deny life to the unborn in the next.

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary.
28 And coming to her, he said, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you."
29 But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
30 Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.
32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."
34 But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?"
35 And the angel said to her in reply, "The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
36 And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
37 for nothing will be impossible for God."

38 Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
39 During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah,
40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
41 When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit,
42 cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
43 And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.

45 Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."

It is not possible to be a Christian and support the "right" to an abortion. It is not possible to be a Catholic Christian and support the "right" to abortion. You certainly have a are EITHER what society calls "Pro-Choice", OR you are a Christian.

If this is not clear to you, re-read the text of Luke 1 which I posted above. Especially focus on the parts in bold.

When the angel appeared to the Virgin Mary, he announced to her she would conceive and bear a son to be named Jesus. The birth of Jesus would follow the conception, because that's how it works. The angel did not announce to her that she would conceive and lay and egg...he announced that the Holy Spirit would overshadow her, and AT THAT MOMENT she would conceive in her womb the Christ, the Holy Redeemer.

Something very special happens to each woman at the moment of conception, the very same thing that happened to Mary when she conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. Every single human life begins in the same way; with a touch from God, a touch that infuses body and soul together, forming a complete human life in the most minute detail.

When the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Blessed Mother, the human and Divine nature of Jesus were fused together. As we know that Jesus, born of a human woman, was fully human in all ways, we also know that he was fully Divine.

Any Christian would certainly be offended at the idea that Jesus was a lump of flesh or just a conglomeration of cells until he was born. Scripture clearly spells out the fact that the children in the wombs of Mary and Elizabeth were, in fact, children, not accidents of the universe. They were not cancer, they were not impersonal "fetuses"; no, they were CHILDREN, they were God's wonderful and abundant blessings, and through the womb of Mary, the Mother of God, Jesus, both Human and Divine, emerged to redeem humanity.

He did not become Jesus from birth; he was Jesus from conception.

Christ, the Redeemer of the world, is the one who penetrated in a unique unrepeatable way into the mystery of man and entered his "heart". Rightly therefore does the Second Vatican Council teach: "The truth is that only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was to come (Rom 5:14), Christ the Lord. Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling". And the Council continues: "He who is the 'image of the invisible God' (Col 1:15), is himself the perfect man who has restored in the children of Adam that likeness to God which had been disfigured ever since the first sin. Human nature, by the very fact that is was assumed, not absorbed, in him, has been raised in us also to a dignity beyond compare. For, by his Incarnation, he, the son of God, in a certain way united himself with each man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin"47, he, the Redeemer of man.(RH, 8)

From the very moment of his Conception, Jesus was both God and Man; as by his conception he dignified humanity even further, it cannot be denied that EACH AND EVERY HUMAN LIFE has an innate dignity, raised even even more by virtue of the Incarnation of God, the Word made Flesh who dwelt among us (John 1), showing us by EXAMPLE of his very own CONCEPTION that this is a child of God FROM THAT VERY MOMENT!

I can understand how atheists or agnostics or religions that do not believe in the Virgin Birth can argue when life begins. But I simply cannot FATHOM how those who claim to be Christian, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, can support the unmitigated and unquestioned slaughter of the unborn children of God. The reality is that the Holy Spirit overshadows all women at the time of conception in order for the soul to be infused into the moment of conception; God touches each one of us at that moment. God touches each woman especially at that moment, a blessing of life, a blessing of love, in the creation of a unique human being designed from the beginning to grow according to the will of God.

If you have the audacity to claim that abortion is an authentic "right", then at least have the integrity to announce you are no longer a Christian. To do anything else is to deny the Lord, the Redeemer who shed his blood so that you might live and have eternal life.

Should you be faced with an unexpected pregnancy, spend some time meditating on the passages of Luke, on Mary's fiat ("let it be done unto me according to your Word"), meditate on the face of the Crucified Christ, place your hand over your womb where that child grows, and consider how God has literally touched you and the life you carry within you. Imagine the face of the Christ child, the infant, and realize that just as Jesus, who loves you enough to die a horrible death for you, loves your child just as much. Imagine how the two natures of God, both Human and Divine, were joined at the moment of Jesus' conception, just as the body and soul of your unborn child were also joined in that same blessed moment.

Do any of us really want to deny life to any of the children of God? To do so is to justify the abortion of Christ Himself.


"The Redeemer of Man (Redemptor hominis), Encyclical Letter of Pope John Paul II", Pauline Books & Media, 1979, p. 16

Friday, November 21, 2008

Terrible Dreams...

I had the weirdest dream last night.

A friend and I attended Mass together in a church we'd never been to before. All was well, and we got our first hint that something was wrong when the priest began to dance a little jig after the final blessing and before he processed down the aisle. Initially the deacon looked on, slightly embarassed, but then he danced a little, too, and finally the two left the altar.

For some reason, Communion was not distributed during the Mass, but afterwards, so as we left we were to go to Father or one of the Extraordinary Ministers who were stationed around much like they would have been in the front of the church.

My friend immediately went to the left to an Extraordinary Minister, while I went forward towards Father. There was no line, and I thought that odd.

He was holding a ciborium and the Blessed Sacrament in a large luna, which I thought to be very strange, wondering how and why he was doing this. But I bowed as usual, and I think he might have said "Body of Christ", but instead of picking up one of the consecrated hosts to hand to me, he just tilted the ciborum in my direction, inviting me to "pick one."

I was shocked and couldn't move. He just grinned insanely and shook the ciborium invitingly, until I stammered that I couldn't reach in and just "take one" because that was Jesus and it was completely improper for the laity to self-communicate.

I considered just walking away, but I couldn't seem to do that, either, realizing that this priest was actually just plain nuts and perhaps had no idea what he was doing. I wondered how he could otherwise have been so normal during Mass only to descend into this type of behavior afterwards.

He seemed upset by my unwillingness to approach the Sacred in the way he preferred, and finally seemed to relent. He picked up one of the hosts, and I began to feel a sense of relief, said, "Amen" and began to open my mouth to receive Our Lord.

He seemd both confused and angry by that so, realizing that I should just receive in the hand, I cupped my hands. Then, to my great chagrin, the mad priest, with great vehemence and anger THREW the host at me. I heard it crack and tried to catch it, and watched in horror as it went to the ground.

A couple others fell as well. I dove to the floor, crying out, "Oh, my Jesus!" and quickly consumed the host, realizing there were missing pieces, not knowing what to do, and realizing also that by my diving to the floor, I'd even shocked the priest and all the witnesses to this, feeling their disapproval. I think I just stayed on the floor, praying to know what to do next.

That's when I thankfully woke up to the real world.

I hope I never have another dream like that!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lacking Charity

Last evening at the end of religious ed. classes I was walking through the hallway, locking doors, making sure everything that needed to be put away was, in fact, put away. As I got to the end of the hallway, one catechist was just stepping out of her room. She had turned off the lights, had the door open, and, realizing I was there to lock it, said to herself, "Do I have everything?"

In a mock-threatening tone, I said to her, "If you leave anything, you won't get it back for two weeks and I WON'T let you in!" I immediately joked that I didn't think I could ever be that mean.

She laughed and said, walking away, "I don't think you have it in you to be that mean!"

This might sound strange to you, but I was touched by her comment. Because I know that it IS in me to be that mean...and meaner.


I have referenced a period of time through which I passed some years ago; I was angry, I was bitter, and maybe not EVERYONE saw it...but those it affected the most certainly did. It started sometime in my adolescence when I lost respect for my Mom (due to her illness, I'm ashamed to say), and it continued into adulthood, made worse after my father's death.

In short...I was mean to a lot of people. I took my anger out on others, those who least deserved it. I was disrespectful, I had no idea what "charity" meant and didn't care, and showed my "good side" to those who would benefit me (i.e. my boss, some co-workers) and the rest experienced my wrath. I wasn't passive aggressive...I was outright rude. I was outright disdainful of any opinion that did not match my own.

For awhile, I was a political Democrat (not formal, just where I was voting), and got sick of the phone calls from the Republicans. I'd not done my research and had bought the partisan propaganda and berated an innocent campaign caller. Quite literally, I "went off" on the woman simply because someone from that candidate's campaign had called in the past looking to speak with "the man of the house" and in my irrational feminazism I was offended so took it out on the innocent.

To this day, I shudder both at what I said and in consideration of the person I said it TO! I bragged about it to my roommate, one of the most left-wing liberals one could meet...and she was shocked by my behavior. That might have been the first clue to me that I was out of control. It should have been, anyway. But no...I went on being bitter and angry.

There isn't anyone who knows me today who would recognize me as I was then.

Thank God!

Conversion and Virtues

Unfortunately "charity" was not something that characterized my life upon my conversion. Yes, there were elements, but there continued to be anger and bitterness. The miracle was that I reconized what I had done to other people. As time goes on, I recognize this more and more, and have to admit I have a hard time forgiving myself.

But it's given me understanding. I occasionally meet "mean" people, and while I sometimes fall back upon my self-righteous attitudes, it's now easier to correct my thinking and apply charity...even if I don't feel it. That's not to say that I succeed, just that now, when I get critical, I actually feel guilt pretty quickly.

A friend recently said something to me about a humorous exchange between she and another friend: "I'm a lot meaner than you and I will get you back!"

Now, this friend is not a mean person, and her threat isn't "real" in that regard. (I have no doubt she'll retaliate, but it won't be outside of humor!).

I know what true meanness is. When I was in Jr. High, I was the victim of a bully...and her followers. It was awful, and was happening around the time I nearly committed suicide.

The bully in question had been a marginal friend, one with a true "mean" streak. She was already bitter and prone to certain cruelties, and because of that, I never became close to her. She had a fraternal twin brother who was killed in an unfortunate accident (even more unfortunate as he was committing a petty crime of theft) during Jr. High, and her reaction was....anger. We'd never had problems, so all I can think is that I must have crossed her path at the wrong time...and became her convenient target. For more than a year, that girl and her followers tortured me in ways I'd prefer never to discuss. The school could do nothing (my Mom informed them, unfortunately, which did make it worse), and we ended up in a class together.

I don't think there's anyone in this world that can be "meaner" to me than this girl was during that year. In some ways, I just pitied her, no matter what she did...because she lost her twin brother. There was something about that death, that closeness, that stayed the hands of everyone. Unfortunately, it didn't help her, and didn't help those of us to come under her wrathful gaze.

I forgave her a long time ago, even as I flinch at certain memories and recognize the direction my own anger took when I was older. I think that, had I been dealing with the same things that she had been when she was just a teen...I might have reacted in the same way. In some ways, I think that's exactly what was going on; she focused her anger the time, I focused mine inward. (That was also when my dysfunctional family was imploding.)

She lived quite a destructive life for awhile, and then an unplanned pregnancy changed her. I heard from other friends how it had softened her, and at a church function, while she was 17 and pregnant, I saw her from afar, laughing and smiling. There was something about her that made me realize that she was different. Let's call it conversion...her unborn child changed her heart.

For was different. I think I was angrier for longer. I was a bully for longer and without a cause. I just did it differently.

How amazing that I literally become that which I hated, and didn't even realize it.

So to anyone who thinks they are "meaner" than I, or that I don't have a "mean bone" in me...maybe so. But that wasn't aways true.

My own suffering at the hands of cruelty was true cruelty...and my own actions of cruelty make me realize how far we can ALL fall.

Conversion to Charity

I don't know when my heart changed. There is no set moment. But I do remember realizing that my own cruelty resulted not from a "low self-esteem" but rather, from a sense of entitlement. A sense of self-righteousness. A sense of "I deserve this", or of being "better" than others for whatever reason.

Popular ("pop") Psychology likes to suggest that bullies and "mean people" just suffer from a lack of "self-esteem".

To a certain degree, when I'd been younger, I'd had "low self-esteem". But as I grew up, that changed. And in fact, reversed. I didn't mean to feel entitled...but I did.

I'd grow up poor and on welfare, and was sick of receiving charity. So when I "grew up" and could take care of myself, when I got to the point where I realized I really did have a future, that's where my sense of entitlement entered. It was subtle, but built over time. And it made me mean. It made me impatient with others. Expecting others to cave in to whatever I wanted.

Some of this was learned from my bitter friends at the time...we encouraged each other in our bitterness and cruel attitudes. Judgment of others and gossip devoured our times together. We rejoiced in our enlightenment.

To this day, though...

...I know that it's in me to be that mean. I know that if I can conceive of a cruelty, I can committ it if the situation is "right". I know that the danger is there.

So it is that I work hard to be charitable. The first year of this blog evidences a lot of my anger and self-righteousness. I have lost a lot of readership since my focus changed...and as my ongoing conversion has drawn me to a different kind of writing. I'm not as angry as I once was. I'm not as demanding, realizing that it's not about me or what I think. Exposure to real people in real parishes has softened me. It has not compromised my beliefs, but has strengthened them; it has only changed my approach. And made me realize how many people don't understand how their own bitterness does not gain converts. It's so easy to make it all about "us" and what "we" think, and forget about the common good. It's so easy to remember devotions...and forget about the real people those devotions are supposed to benefit.

I wonder how many people I have chased away from the Church. I claimed to be Catholic even when I lived in every way, contrary to our Faith.

I wonder sometimes if I can take on their judgment...on my own I can't merit Heaven, and given what I've done to others....I can certainly claim souls for the other side. How can God show someone like me Mercy?

Joking about Meanness

Sometimes I joke with people in "mean" ways, which are really friendly barbs. We all do this to each other. But because of what I suffered, what I did to others, and with things I wonder might offend Charity, I often quickly repent of my own jests...and those of others.

I worry that I've offended my "target", or, even worse, God, through the jokes. What if I've gone too far?

Sometimes that does happen, and we've all been on the wrong side of it. But we let it go. How much is too much? How much "venting" about other people with friends crosses the line into gossip? How much does it take to offend Charity?

Sad to catechist is wrong about me. I DO have it in me to be cruel, and fear I will do it again.

I fear that, for the rest of my life, I will continue to work on exercising charity, of taking a back seat where someone else is is forefront, even if what they are doing is offends others. And I will forever struggle with finding the balance between when it is right to speak up...and when it is right to remain silent.

For even Our Lord remained silent when He was questioned by Herod. We have to ask ourselves...of the two...which lacked charity?

It wasn' the One who was abused. It wasn't Christ.


Advent is coming up much more quickly than I realized, and I'm grateful.

There's such a juxtaposition about what this liturgical season is about in comparison to the craziness of the world raging around us. Christmas songs are already playing, have been for weeks now. Some people already have their Christmas decorations out and lit up in all their glory.

There are already celebrations planned, festivities underway....and our culture hasn't even taken time to take stock of what this is really about.

Advent, for we Catholics, is a chance to retreat from the world, to slow down, and take a look at our lives. To consider the messianic prophecies, the people holding their breath, waiting for their Savior. And to, like Mary, ponder those things in our hearts, and see what we need to change in order to be more accessable to Christ.

That's right; Christ is already accessable. We're the ones who cut Him off and refuse to see Him.

I'm looking forward to Advent. Even though my own life will continue to be crazy, there's a certain disposition I've found can be cultivated. There's something in the spirituality of the season that aids me in "withdrawing".

So much of my life is so out of control that when Advent and Lent come around, as others are groaning, I'm rejoicing. For some reason, I can engage in penitential practices that I can't seem to do at other times of the year. There's something about the penitential seasons that literally gives me the strength to become more disciplined and to focus more purely on the source of all strength: Jesus.

It's as if for a moment in time, it's just He and I. He is standing at the end of a long corridor, and there's no one there but us. I just have to keep moving towards him. Outside there could be raging storms, raging shoppers, crazy carnival Christmas music at war with a raging ACLU...and it's unimportant.

It makes me think that if I could be a hermit during Advent, it would be easier, but the again, maybe it's important to see the contrast. To withdraw while still in the world, trying not to be of it. And from that perspective, it's a lot easier to see where the important priorities lie.

Advent, as a penitential season, isn't as strict as Lent, but for a few years now I've tried to copy the things I do during Lent anyway. Because I need to. My prayers are different, and my focus is different, but the same types of practices work to provide the same kinds of benefits.

If you haven't considered that option before, try it. We're already supposed to be fasting from something on Fridays, anyway (that was not changed by Vatican II), but can we maybe fast from something more than usual? Every lent, we give up some legitimate good; why NOT do the same thing during Advent? During Advent we regularly give alms; it is a season for giving, but if we give up something else we love, can we give more TO those Christ has told us we must love?

The possibilities are endless...and the season is short. Take advantage of the respite. Look at the insanity of the world...and realize the peace only found in Christ.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Yet Another Metaphor for the Spiritual Life

This is what happens to your spiritual life when you stop praying and think you can save yourself.

Mantilla-twitch to Patrick Madrid.

Monday, November 17, 2008

America in Historical-Critical Biblical Artistic Terms

In class, as we study Isaiah and Jeremiah, in reading the prophecies in historical context, it's impossible to ignore the lessons for today.

We all know the old adage: Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. There are variations, but that's the basic line, and the meaning never changes. Stephen King even has his own version from one of his books: "Those who do not learn from history are bound to be beat up by it again."

Something like that.

And it's true. In Christian Anthropology, we study the nature of man, and in Spiritual Theology, we study the masters, from the pagan philosophers to the great Catholic Saints and Doctors. In all of these subjects, we can't help but mesh them together and see the tapestry that has been woven before us. We have not learned from history; we are repeating it.

We are, in artistic terms, a Diego Rivera melting into a Salvador Dali.

Biblically, we can substitute "America" in place of "Israel" or "Jerusalem" and have a pretty good idea as to what's coming next. We can take an objective look at the immorality of our culture, the secularization of our country, and all the people crying "Peace, peace" where there is no peace. The American false prophets (Obama, Oprah, etc.) are advocating all sorts of social change, even as those they claim help are the most victimized by their ideologies.

In the siege of Jerusalem, the captives were forced to eat their own dead children, among other horrors. What's so much worse about America is that not only does our new leader advocate abortion, but the slaughter of children born alive in spite of the attempt on their lives, and we're using embryos....THOSE ARE vaccines and to study various cures. How is that better than the cannibalism of Jerusalem? It's worse because it's been CHOSEN and ADVOCATED!

Let me make this comparison again:

In the siege of Jerusalem, the people were forced to eat their dead children. They had a water source, but were cut off from food for, what...three years? How long was it? Long enough for them to resort to cannibalism out of desperation. Those who thirst without respite will die. Those who hunger...get creative. In their desperate creativity, they ate their own children.

Can you imagine anything more horrible?


Check out modern-day America:

America is not under siege. We have abundant food and water. We are a wealthy country, in spite of our huge national debt. The milk and honey are flowing, wine is being poured out copiously, and there is much rejoicing.

We are under no duress. Yet the abortuaries are doing brisk business in in-the-womb slaughters these days, and our new President-elect has voted THREE TIMES against the Infant Born Alive act, which would require medical treatment for babies born alive in spite of the intention of the abortionists and the mothers to kill them in utero.

You say that no, we're not eating our children. Maybe not as the inhabitants of Jerusalem did...but what we're doing is much worse.

Remember....they were under duress and seeking survival. Doing the abominable just to try to live. They were not in their right minds.

We theory. We have more than we need.

But we ARE eating our children. We ARE cannibals.

In our culture, human embryos are being used in vaccines, in research, in ways that benefit us in expensive ways. Not only are we eating our children...we are paying for the privilege.

This is the stuff of sci-fi horror genres. This is the stuff born out of the depths of Hell. And as a country, we're voting it in and choosing it.

Human nature doesn't change. We are the same now as the people in the fertile crescent, B.C.

The ONLY thing that has changed is our ability to harness science to our own moral destruction.

America/Jerusalem. Same Diff.

Same result.

Wait and see.

My Spiritual Life

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Light of the World

Today in class one of our professors spoke of Pope Paul VI; did you know that Humanae Vitae was the LAST Encyclical he ever wrote? He had ten more years in his papacy, and in all that time, although he wrote other things, none was to the same authority. Evangelii Nuntiandi was an Apostolic Exhortation, not an Encyclical. Our professor pointed out that, in photos, that dear Pope was never smiling.

Humane Vitae cost him dearly; he suffered much as a result for speaking out for life so prophetically. Here we are, 40 years later, having seen and still living (the lucky ones) the fulfillment of his prophecy; ever word he wrote was true. Every word.

Yet when it was published, American theologians got together and dissented. Canadian Bishops issued the Winnipeg Statement. And in Europe, they called councils to rebel as a group against the Truth issued by the Vicar of Christ.

Our professor believed that it cost him so much that "the ink of his pen just dried up."

I can believe it. And history bears it out.

Tonight as I write, the movie "Armageddon" is playing out behind me on the TV. The world is headed for destruction, but those about to die are busy with technology, because, as one character said, in tears, "I have nowhere else to go."

I was suddenly struck with a very deep sadness; she just spoke on behalf of so much of the world, even professed Catholics.

Here we live in a world that denies the value of life, defines freedom by whatever is convenient to "me" and flees the idea of sacrifice. The vast majority of Catholics who claim to be "practicing" have never been taught the most basic tenants of their faith, have never read Humanae Vitae, and don't even know that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a document that coherently answers the questions they haven't bothered to ask.

We live in a world filled with people who are SUPPOSED to know Christ...but don't.

We live in a world that we have allowed to become so secularized that the moral fibre that used to make up the family has been rendered unrecognizable but for torn remnants here and there. We live in a world where those who should know where to go for hope don't have the foggiest idea that "hope" is a theological virtue, one that opens the door to salvation no matter what one's circumstances or choices.

We live in a world without mercy, for it refuses to acknowledge the only one who can provide them the absolution they seek.

We live in a world that is getting darker by the day, especially here in America, the world's last refuge.

Today, sitting in class, I wondered at what I was doing. I know that all that is necessary is time with Christ. I know that if I had nothing else, I would have Our Lord even for a few moments in an adoration chapel, or in the church, before Him hidden in the tabernacle. So why go to class?

The question was quickly answered; because there aren't very many being educated in the faith. Those of us who are there; we have not just a privilege and a gift, but a responsiblity. Maybe we are supposed to preach formally or form organizations. Maybe we are to become more holy to live an a example for others. Or maybe we are being prepared so as to answer the questions of those who will flee to any corner when the axe finally falls.

I don't know what my call happens to be, but I do know that for some reason, I and my classmates are in the minority. Every parish sees that same minority; of thousands of registered members, only a few hundred are active, and even fewer live a life of true devotion.

We are ALL called to Sainthood. Every. Single. One. of. Us.

We are ALL called to share the Gospel. We are ALL called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, following in the footsteps of Jesus, whom we proclaim to follow.

And yet...things are getting worse.

We aren't doing our job. And, if we are...souls aren't responding.

I think that the prayer of Isaiah is being answered...hearts are being hardened, eyes refuse to see, ears refuse to hear.

We are a country, and a world, that has rejected God. He has pulled His blessing from us, and we deserve it. Even we the "faithful" have fallen short and will come under the same judgment.

We shouldn't be surprised. But we should light our candles and carry them out into the world. Yes, people hate us. Get over it. That's nothing new. Get a spine, live a holy life, speak only of Christ, and avoid sin. Remain close to the Sacraments, spend time in Adoration, and prepare for what's coming.

Be lights to the world. Share your faith, even in simple ways. Maybe we live in dark times, but I, for one, have hope. Not hope in this world; the reason for the hope of a Christian has nothing to do with this world, but in Christ who died for many.

If you claim to follow Christ...FOLLOW HIM! If you profess His Name...CONFORM YOURSELF TO HIM, and help others do the same.

It might be hard to be holy and work to become a Saint; but it'll be a darn sight easier than eternity in Hell.

We are responsible not for just what we know...but for whom we lose.

And right now....we're ignoring a lot of lost souls that are too ignorant to cry out.

And it's our own fault.

St. Albert the Great

Today is the feast of St. Albert the Great, Bishop, Doctor of the Church, Dominican, and teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas. Even as other students called St. Thomas a "dumb ox", St. Albert knew there was something in him that was not possessed by the other students, and indeed, his faith in his student was not in vain.

I have a special place in my own heart for St. Albert, for I believe he is one of the Saints that helped lead me back home.

At that time in my life I was struggling to come back to the Church. I'd begun attending Mass (although I hadn't been to Confession in about 10 or 11 years by that point), and a church near where I was living was named after the great Saint. It was somewhat of a dissenting parish with very low attendance, but it was close, it was convenient, and there was SOMETHING that kept drawing me. Noting the name of the church, I remember praying to this Saint I'd never heard of before, asking him for his help.

I was so thirsty for God, and had hope, every time I went, that I would indeed meeet God there. Nearly every week I'd be frustrated, though; the readings were great, but the "homily" was most often given by a woman, a Director of Religious Education, while the priest sat down and listened. While I was dying to hear something about the readings of that week, to learn more about Christ and obtain some kind of balm for my aching soul, I was given lessons in social statistics and subject to all sorts of "look how great we are for feeding x statistic of people!"

I wanted to know where Jesus was in all that; after all, I HAD a background in social services and had no problem getting my hands dirty. I had grown up eating from food shelves. But what I needed desperately was to know who God was, and where I could find Our Lord.

The church wasn't well attended, as I mentioned, but there were a few neighborhood elderly who had probably lived their lives in that neighborhood and who faithfully attended Mass each week. I wondered how they had survived. Even I, an uneducated fallen-away Catholic, could see that it seemed the parish had left them behind. Their devotion was obvious, especially during the Eucharistic prayers and the Consecration, when they knelt, sometimes with great difficulty, as perfectly healthy younger people stood. I knew we should all be kneeling, although I didn't really understand why. But something prompted me to follow their devotion, and kneel when they knelt.

A couple weeks later, I noticed that another young-ish type person sitting near me was watching me when I knelt...and she knelt, too. And so did someone else. Then so did a few more. It seemed to be confirmation that indeed, we should be kneeling, and I was thankful for the dear ladies and gentlemen who had the courage to be faithful, showing the rest of us proper reverence even for mysteries we did not understand.

I didn't know what was wrong or why this church was doing things differently than everyone else.

Nor do I know exactly what St. Albert did to interceed for me, but I do know this; that church, in spite of all the dissent and liturgical abuse, in spite of the spiritual malpractice going on there, was a very important waystation in my faith.

It was there that God began to console me through certain words of certain hymns, causing a certain miracle to happen one day at the beginning of Lent; that miracle is maybe for another post. Suffice to say that I knew God had heard my sincere prayer of repentance: Lord, have mercy on me!

That year, I attended the evening service on Good Friday. As of that point, I still had not been to confession, still too terrified to go. But I went forward to venerate the cross, knelt down and placed my hand on the wood. Suddenly I could almost see Our Lord nailed to the wood above me, and I could almost feel his blood dripping on my head. I was certain that, had I looked upward, I would have gazed upon Him as He took his last breath. It was a profound moment as I suddenly understood that this really happened, Jesus had died for me, and yes....Jesus loved me and wanted me back.

I returned to my pew, shaken, in tears, wanting nothing more than to return to the Cross and remain there forever.

Somehow, in spite of all the craziness, in spite of my own sinful life, in spite of my fear, Jesus got through to me, perhaps through the intercession of St. Albert the Great who refused to give up on me.

I didn't know then that he was a Dominincan, or St. Thomas Aquinas's teacher. I had never heard of the Summa. But now, having returned Home, in looking back at that waystation, at the connections made for me, I'm not surprised by any of those facts. After all...St. Thomas is one of my patrons (this blog being under his direct patronage, the name chosen when I didn't know he'd penned the hymn), and of course, I am drawn to the Dominican spirituality. Even more...the thirst to know God even more, and to make Him known to others seems not to abate, even as I drink of the Living Water, and continue to kneel at Calvary every week, sometimes every day.
Thank you, St. Albert, for your intercession. Pray for us!