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Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Rest of the Story

I'll never forget those days in our warm Illinois kitchen, sitting at the table, listening to the radio over a warm bowl of tomato soup with cheese sandwiches, or chicken noodle soup with a side of Saltines.  Maybe it was raining, or snowing, or an otherwise dreary day, but we were warm and dry, and in spite of the occasional static from the AM bandwidth, we'd hear the tinny voice of Paul Harvey coming into our home to tell us stories.  

I remember long car trips from Illinois to visit family in Minnesota, or maybe in the upper peninsula of Michigan, crossing long stretches of the midwest, in all weather, but listening to the voice of Paul Harvey tell us about things both known and unknown in our experience. 

It was on a long car ride on a rainy day that I heard the story of the Lonely Hitchiker.  As the rain beat against the car windows, as we passed or were passed by truck after truck, we heard of the semi driver who picked up the Hitchhiker, on a day just like that one.  We passed truck stops and I looked through the bleary rain wondering if Paul Harvey was talking about one of those drivers. 

You see, he had a gift...the subjects of his stories were real people, even if they were fictional.  He made us see PAST the story, giving us a glimpse into the lives of people who passed through the words.  We didn't just get "the story", but we were introduced to the people who made up the story. 

Every time we listened to his show, even when I was fussy or crabby and contrary, I quieted upon hearing his voice, and gave in to the images his descriptions brought to mind.  Often he spoke in a way that brought my own young memories to the forefront, helping me to understand even though I really had no other reference.  If he spoke of truck drivers, I thought of those we saw on the highway, or of our neighbor, who was a truck driver.  

Whatever he spoke about had an impact of some sort. And often, Mom would tell us stories, too, jumping off of what Paul Harvey had said.  Sometimes because she had to explain things, sometimes because he made her remember her own stories.  And so, there, around the kitchen table, or maybe in the car, we got to hear stories of the lives of real people. 

So it was that often our lunches were silent; all Mom had to do was turn on the radio and even in the midst of bloody sibling rivalry, we'd stop, slurp our soup or pull the crusts off our sandwiches, and let the stories told by Paul Harvey fill our kitchen and our minds.  And we all knew the famous line was coming, Paul Harvey's trademark:  "....when we come back, I'll tell you....the REST of the Story..."

Sometimes we'd wait in silence. Sometimes we'd rehash what he'd already said.  But always...always, we were involved. We were engaged. We wanted to know the people he was talking about.  

And we felt like we knew him.  He was like the uncle we never met, a long-lost relative who told us about other relatives we only wish we could know.  Every show was an adventure.  Every story had meaning, everything had a moral, even if it wasn't stated as blatatly as in "Stories from Aesop" we watched on the cartoons every afternoon. 

Sometimes I wonder if my own penchant for storytelling comes from him; I was so entranced by his words, his ability to tell a story, I wished I could make things that interesting, too.  

As I got older, I realized that some of his stories really WEREN'T that interesting, although he told them in such a way one could not help but be affected. For he had the ability to find the nugget of gold in anyone's story, and bring it to light, no matter how humble.  And the listener couldn't help but be touched, for it wasn't necessarily the story that was so important, but the person, or the situation.  He made it PERSONAL. 

Many of us have fond memories of Paul Harvey, and will never forget his voice coming across the airwaves.  We will never forget the typical background of radio static, always there, once an annoyance, but now, making up the sound of nostalgia in a fond memory of a voice we'll never hear again. 

Rest in peace, dear Mr. Harvey.  Thanks for the stories, for the warm kitchen memories, and the introduction to storytelling so unwittingly given to a couple of fractious children in midwestern America.  Your legacy isn't the news as we know it, but the intention you so clearly bring real people into the spotlight, so that we all might understand life a little more clearly. 

Perhaps, one day, we'll finally meet so I can shake your hand and get...the rest of the story. 

Good day

God bless you, Mr. Harvey, and Rest in Peace. 



Friday, February 27, 2009

Sacred Silence

Tonight began the annual Lenten practice of Stations of the Cross followed by Mass. I usually try to get there early for some quiet time in Adoration, but today I was delayed so my time was shortened. 

The prayers of the Stations spoke profoundly to me tonight, so for a good portion of it, I could not speak, only follow along, silently, trying not to cry.  

Mass was beautiful, although after Communion, I had great difficulty praying.  It didn't matter. I didn't want to be anywhere else but right there, in that moment...with Our Lord. 

After Mass, however, as usual, people immediatly leapt up and began chatting, a particular group near me especially loudly.  I was kneeling at the time, trying to pray, as were some others in the church.  For a moment, I nearly snapped at them to please take their conversation elsewhere, but decided to hold my tongue, choosing to offer it up, if imperfectly in my impatience. 

The reality is that people don't know any better anymore.  Snapping at them out of the blue doesn't tend to be constructive or conducive to proper education.  

Even when everyone had left the church, they stood in the "Gathering Space" chatting loudly, allowing their children to run through the crowds screaming, and I nearly fainted with relief when they FINALLY closed the doors!   Although it didn't do much to help. 

We have a Perpetual Adoration chapel, but I couldn't go there because the rosary was being prayed as is usual after Mass. 

All I wanted was silence.  After the devotions of Stations of the Cross, after Mass, was it too much to ask to have profound silence in the presence of Christ in order to continue a conversation that was barely begun? 

Then they turned down the lights in the main church, and I quickly turned, but was relieved to see others were there craving the same silence I was, likely just as perturbed at the lack.  They weren't budging. 

I did get up and walk to the back of the Church, praying for silence, wanting to remain, but unable to handle the noise.  Yet I couldn't leave, so I dropped my coat and bag and knelt in the last pew, in tears, not wanting to go. I told Jesus just that...that I didn't want to leave. 

And silently, in that way He has, He said, "Then come to me."  

I couldn't go into the chapel...they were still in the midst of the rosary devotions.  

Finally, unable to resist any longer, I stood, left my things, and walked the long pathway towards the front of the Church and the Tabernacle, which was, but for the flickering candle, in complete darkness.  And there, finally, far away from the squwalking crowds, I could rest in relative silence, almost alone with Jesus. 

I knelt on the bare tile floor, knowing His presence as He waited, where He always waits, patiently...for us.  

I will not say what I said, or what I did, or what He said to me. Suffice to say it was precious time, an eternal moment, one in which I wished I could remain.  Nothing mystical, nothing amazing.  Just...Our Lord, allowing me to take some time, pouring myself out at His very feet, knowing He could hear all the words I couldn't speak.  

Resting in the silence...let it always be so profound. 

First Friday of Lent

I've been having really vivid dreams lately, though, and that usually indicates I'm just overly tired. Which is true.  

On Wednesday night, I had a dream I was with some religious sisters, and one was apparently getting ready for her Investitutre (i.e. clothing ceremony).   As we were talking, she was trying on her wimple, which apparently they had made.  The Sister who was assisting turned to me and said, "There is an indulgent granted for those who wear the wimple." 

"Really?"  I asked, surprised.  She went on to explain the indulgence, however, I can't recall what was said. Which is just as well...I'm pretty sure the theology was the usual jumble of dreamland nonsense. 

Last night I dreamed I was with a group headed to Rome. Something happened, and they sent us to France instead, with the intention of bussing us to Rome.  

I think we flew into Versailles, and I remember walking around dark streets, seeing cool works of art. One street in particular stood out to me, and I thought maybe it was one where a movie was filmed. But after some discussion, we realized the statues were all wrong and the movie had been filmed probably in some dark streeet in Paris...which oddly, was also where we were at the time. 

Then we were headed to Madrid, but not without a stop in Venice.  I was so excited to be in Venice, and suddenly we found ourselves in the canals, which were filled with raging waters.  There were gentle swelling waves (but a LOT of them!), and the occasional rapids. As our gondola raced through and around the city, we couldn't believe this was how the Venetians had existed for so long!  Oh, my, it was FUN!   

(as a side note, I'm thankful that the water ISN'T like that in Venice!)

Then, suddenly we found ourselves in some upper room in some building in Venice, because while we were out, apparently someone had drugged me, so my friends brought me to a hospital of some sort. But the doctor wasn't interested in finding out what drug I'd apparently been given, but instead focused on my family's history of any drug use.  He was going to test for THAT instead (even in the abscence of methheads in my family).  I thought him quite odd and suggested he find out what I'd been given.  Nope.  It was more fun to want to run irrelevant tests. 

I think around then, I woke up.  There was a great deal more to the dream, but there's the gist of it.  

No, I've never been to Europe, and I'm quite certain my trip wouldn't be like my dream if I DID go there! 

I am sad that I never made it to Rome, however.  :-(  

Well, it's time for me to clean up and think about heading to the very real place where I spend my  

This evening it's Stations of the Cross followed by Mass.  Followed by dinner and much studying. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday as a Child of God

I'm starting my Lent out strong this year, as well as I can.  This morning I was thrilled to discover that my parish had Confessions at the usual times, so I rushed over to the parish for the Sacrament. 

I attended Mass this afternoon at the parish where I work, and as I was rushing from my office into the Church, Father stopped me and asked, "Are you going to Mass?"  Upon receiving an affirmative answer, he asked me to assist in distributing ashes.  I was a bit surprised, but agreed (really preferring not to, but he's my boss, whaddaya gonna do?)  He also asked me to serve as a "Eucharistic Minister" (even he's given up using the proper term), and THAT I was able to turn down, explaining I'm not trained, but he did find someone else.  

Father told me where to stand and what to do, and when it came time, handed me a card with what I was supposed to say (I still managed to butcher it the first couple times...). 

I've never performed this particular role at Mass, but it was an interesting experience.  First of all, I realized it's a LOT harder than it seems to make a well-defined cross on someone's forehead! 

And you know...foreheads come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. I LOVED the guys that were nearly was so easy! They tended to get better crosses, because I had a heckuva lot more to work with!  And some people had smaller foreheads covered by bangs that were hard to sweep aside. And sometimes I got ashes in their hair. 

One thing struck me, though...the humility with which people were approaching.  I really can't put that into words, but it was there, in how they stood, in how they bowed their heads. I wish I had that kind of humility. It's not stated, it's not contrived it's just...there. 


This evening I had a youth event, and some of our youth were needing to attend Mass, so Father asked me again to assist (even though I had not intended to attend Mass this evening.)  We had a catechist who was able to do so, so I hoped maybe I was off the hook...nope. Father said he still needed me if I could help.  OK. 

Apparently, though, there was some miscommunication, and so when we were called up to approach the altar, of course I got another big cross imposed on the one still on my forehead, and was handed the little dish (sorry, I have no idea if there's a liturgical word for that!) and card with the verse, but my supervisor was skipped, although she received the ashes.  Father quietly explained to her that another person was taking her place. Before we all left the altar area, she turned to me and said that in my assigned section, her godchild was there.  I asked her if she just wanted to take my place?  She did, so I gladly relinquished the ashes and returned to my pew. 

So it happened that I attended Mass twice today, which was not part of my original plan. 

I have a theory...perhaps I'm such a huge sinner that I needed a double-reminder to repent and remain faithful to the Gospel!  It's not lost on me that I was one of the few people standing in front of EVERYONE today being told to repent... *hmmm....*   

But something else happened, too. At the second Mass, I was seated behind a mother and her three young children.  They were quite fidgity (although quiet), and in profile, I could see how closely they resembled their mother.  She was absolutely STAMPED into their features. 

I considered how each of us also has our Creator stamped into us, although perhaps not in a way so recognizeable as a parent and child.  When God looks at us, He sees His work, He sees His features...but do we?  Do we ever stop to consider how much we resemble God, for He created us out of Love and fashioned us into His own image? 

Yet we CAN recognize this in others. We CAN look at others and see God's features. We see Him when we recognize the virtues of another. We see Him when a person who lives a holy life exudes joy from every pore.  We see Him when someone approaches us and doesn't care that we're nervous and have no idea what we're doing...because they recognized the presence of God first and that's all that matters to them. 

I couldn't help but ponder the family in front of me this evening, realizing that THIS was the real reason I found myself at Mass for the second time;  it's a lesson in conversion. 

During Lent, the practices are designed to help us focus on what's truly important; holiness.  The holier we become, the more we resemble God, the more we conform to Him, the more we recognize Him in those we serve.  

God created us all in His image, an image that we disfigure through our own sin.  We are being called to conversion, to put aside all those things that make us unrecognizeable.  In the ongoing, purifying process of conversion, we begin to resemble God more and more, for this is the end to which we are called; this is why we were created. And because we fell so far, so hard, He sent His only Son to redeem us, and help us once again to become recognizeable children of God. 

We can only hope, that by the end of Lent this year, we might resemble God just as closely as the children in front of me resembled their mother. 

Dear Lord, please let it be so. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Heart of Christ

This morning I pulled out the next book of the Liturgy of the Hours so that I would remember to begin using it tomorrow, Ash Wednesday.  

I opened it up and happened immediately upon a holy card; a picture of the Divine Child Jesus holding out His Sacred Heart in a gesture of offering.

It stopped me.  There He was…offering me His heart.  He does that every day. It made me think of the miracle of Lanciano, where the Holy Eucharist turned into flesh, which was studied and found to be cardiac muscle.  That is…heart muscle.

Do you realize what that means?  That every time we receive Holy Communion, we are taking the very heart of Christ into ourselves!  We are taking in the offering of love, symbolized by the heart itself…Himself.  Jesus gives Himself to us, fully. The source of blood, the source of life...the heart symbolizes all life, and it overflows with life, that WE might live.

What do we give Him in return?

I find it no coincidence that this image and these connections have been in my mind today - Shrove Tuesday. A day to examine ourselves and determine what we’re holding back from God.

Lent is a time to recognize what Our Lord has done for us, and see if somehow, we can take another step, offer more of ourselves to Him, or offer EVERYTHING to Him, just as He did for us. 

Jesus offers His very heart; are we willing to trust Him enough to offer our own, without reserve?  Completely abandoning ourselves to Him?

A phrase that has been going through my mind a lot of late is from John Paul II’s address to the youth at WYD 2000

 It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness. He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle...

And I think to myself…what ARE my most genuine choices?  My choices to sin? Or my choices that bring me closer to God?  To what end am I, as a human being, an adopted daughter of the King, directed?

What is my heart’s desire?  Really?

We can answer those questions during Lent. We can enter this desert, and perhaps allow Our Lord to reveal His heart to us…for us.  And maybe then, only then, will we be able to understand that what we truly, genuinely desire, is what He also desires for us.

Vespers this evening calls us to remember we are children, for in that innocence we will find Our Lord waiting.  Given the way I started my day, and the prayerful thoughts that have come to me throughout the various hours, I find that the Psalm-prayer and Antiphon are no mistake, but words to complete a little square in the quilt God has so artistically placed to represent His lesson for me today:


Lord Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, you declared that whoever receives a little child in your name receives you, and you promised your kingdom to those who are like children. Never let pride reign in our hearts, but may the Father's compassion reward and embrace all who willingly bear your gentle yoke.

Ant.  Unless you acquire the heart of a child, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. 

How do we acquire the heart of  a child?

All too often, we can't. We've forgotten what it's like to have such trust, such devotion, such abandonment.

So Christ offers us His own heart, seeing our deprivation, and unable, in His innocence, in His love, to allow us to be so impoverished.  In His Divine Childhood, he approaches us and gives us His most valuable possession..and asks us to make Him ours.

Because our hearts are stone, He comes to us gently, and offers us His own heart, beating furiously with the fire of love for us, and asks us to take it into ourselves, and share in His own Divine Life. 

Today, Jesus offers us His heart. How can we look into the joyful and trusting face of the Divine Child and refuse His selfless gift?  How can we fail to respond by offering our own?


Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner. 


Monday, February 23, 2009

On Abortion...

At my friend Cathy's blog, a typical anonymous poster who doesn't have the backbone to put ANY kind of name behind her words queries the following:

"When you say no abortion, what alternative are [sic] proposing to women? What, personally, are you willing to do {to help those who have a [sic] unwanted pregnancy} if you propose to stop all abortions?"

In return, I can't help but to pose this reply to our anonymous friend:

When you say yes to abortion, what alternative are you proposing to the unborn baby?  What, personally, are YOU willing to do to help those "unwanted children" if you propose to endorse their slaughter?

Are YOU willing to take the place of the unborn baby?  

On My Mind

There's a lot going on in my life right now, but here's a snapshot:


This morning I had 72 followers, and as such, was beginning to think maybe I was Muslim or something. Had I reached the Nirvana of Islam?  But that idea came crashing to my feet when I checked in later and found out I had only 67 followers.  I could only walk away with ONE conclusion:  I'm not Muslim.  

Once I realized that, I got a new follower, and he didn't even know what I'd been thinking!  


Lent begins on Wednesday, and I need to go to Confession. Yes, already. I like to start Lent with a clean slate, but I've had a rough couple days of it since Saturday, and just feel yucky.  So I'd like to avail myself of the Sacrament of Confession, Penance, and Reconciliation, with a bit of Forgiveness and Healing added to the mix.  (Oh...wait...that's all of it in ONE!  How cool is THAT!?)  

Everyone is talking about what they're giving up for Lent;  coffee, chocolate, alcohol, meat, wheatgrass, organic fuel, food in general, etc.  

I've taken all of these under advisement and have come to a conclusion:  the problems in my life arise directly from sin.  Usually my own, although occasionally I'm the victim of someone else's sin, and so be it.  I can't control that, but maybe I can control my own issues. So...with much thought and prayer, I've decided that for the next 46 days or so, I'm going to give up sin. 


I've always wanted to be a Saint, and yeah, Saints are the people who never quit trying, but I've decided to kick my competetive side into gear, and I'm just not going to TRY...I'm going to DO!  Um...I mean I'm not going to Sin at all.  Ever.  Nope. I'm giving it all up.  

Sinning is so much fun most of the time. I can whine and complain and under current parlance, that's "venting" but never mind "venting" causes harm to others in different ways, by what they're hearing and opinions they're forming about the subject of the vent, just or unjust, etc.  So, clearly, venting is often a sin (maybe not always, though. You can vent just fine about a GM car with a cracked cylinder head at 67,000 miles and not damage anyone's rep because everyone knows GM is dissolving, anyway).  But venting about people?  That's gossip, calumny, and detraction. Can't do that anymore.  So, buh-bye, venting!  

And it doesn't stop there. But because I don't feel like naming ALL my sins, well, let's just say when I go to Confession I can get rid of them and just resolve not to committ those sins again. Right?  Right!  And that's what we call a "firm purpose of amendment!"  :-D  

So, as you can see, I'm giving up sin.  It'll be a hard go of it, but maybe with this firm purpose of amendment I've pulled out of my...uh..nevermind....

Moving on...


The Roommate Chronicles. 

I apologize for the scandal I've caused in my rants about living with another person. I don't mean to attack her, and in fact, I knew before she moved in here that she has "issues", and I even know what some of those issues are.  I have behaved very badly, have set a very bad example, and in fact, that should make people realize how desperately I also need conversion.  But I've misused my blog and hope to never do so again. I ask you to keep my roommate in your prayers; she is dealing with some things, and really doesn't need me to make things worse for her.  

We had a little (very small) conversation last night before she darted out of the room and never surfaced again, but apparently my entreaty to her to communicate with me hit its mark and she called tonight to do just that.  Deo gratias!  It enabled me to return her call and leave a message on her voicemail with the important info (such as bills) she has not given me a chance to provide to her in the last several days.  I also left some other info about what I suspect is the problem for her, such that it MAY open the door for actual communication should she choose to walk through that door of her own accord.  

I joked earlier today that "I could be holier if it weren't for this hair shirt God sent me", but obviously that's the point;  we are supposed to accept what comes to us and THAT is what makes us grow in holiness. I've been failing miserably, I've recognized that fact, and still I've been a complete jerk.  

That's not to say she hasn't been, but when people mistreat us, we have a greater duty to step up and be charitable, no matter what. I could have handled things better, and it IS possible to be charitable without letting people walk all over us. I'm figuring out how to do that now, thanks be to God. 

Um...dang it....FOURTH...

My Vocational discernment has been on my mind, as always, but has taken a back seat.  That shouldn't happen.  But God has acted through this and reminded me to keep my eyes on Him. Everything else is a distraction. 

Today I came across something that made me think of my Dad. I have often wondered how he would react to my discernment.  Right now, neither my mother nor my brother knows what I am thinking, and, considering that I am discerning a very austere, cloistered way of life, well...I'll admit I'm afraid to tell them.  I wondered how Dad would take such news.  He passed away long ago, but today, I think I got my answer, and maybe this is one of those little gifts from God...who's looking out for both me and my "Dear Old Dad" (as he used to quote):


That day she left me early
I was feeling mighty blue,
Just a-thinking how I’d miss her
And the things she used to do.

But now, somehow it’s different—
With each rising of the sun,
And my heart is ever singing:
“I’m the daddy of a nun.”

Since to err is only human,
There’s a whole lot on the slate
That I’ll have to make account for
When I reach the golden gate.

But then I’m not a-worrying
About the deeds I’ve done,
I’ll just whisper to St. Peter:
“I’m the daddy of a nun.”

(Posted by Sr. Judith Miryam, O.P.)

And you know...I think that's the decision Dad, who was a Lutheran, would have come to. I think he would be proud, no matter what. Because he'd follow his own advice he'd given me long ago: "You can do anything you want and I'll always love you."  And Dad, always, as long as he lived, was proud of me.  He never got to see the fruit of lot of what he encouraged me to do, but I have no doubt God is keeping him updated. 

Thanks, Dad.  

And dang I'm crying.  


Jesus reminded me that sin renders us useless in the Church Militant.  Maybe more on this later, but if we allow ourselves to become distracted by our favorite sins, we become dead weight to the rest of the Church, which needs our prayers, our involvement, our unity.  We need to take this time of Lent to truly look at ourselves, to go before the Lord and come clean, and let Him be our strength. We need to fast and pray and observe penitential mortifications in order to understand our true poverty.  We have to see, in our lives, what renders us useless to that He might take those burdens away, or at least help us to deal with them.  

And only in doing this can we be made new, and be called to arise with Him in the Resurrection.  


I have more on my mind than that, but writing about it all is taking a toll on me and I can't do any more tonight.  

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Everyone is writing about Lent, which begins this coming Wednesday, so perhaps I should also jump on this bandwagon. After all, it's been in my thoughts and prayers, too.   

As a child, I hated Lent, because Mom always made us give up candy. We never had a choice. She'd let us "think" about it, but really, she just made the decision. The ironic thing; we never really had that much candy, anyway.  So it was that we really didn't "get" the lesson Mom intended to give us...that of penitential discipline, for love of God, for conversion. 

Canon Law requires that children 14 and older fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and abstain from meat on all lenten Fridays, but Mom induced that fast when we were 12 (out of her error...she felt really bad about that when she later learned it was 14, not 12.)  But it didn't harm us, and really, we DID learn from that in ways we could not articulate.  

Even when I had fallen away from the Church, I found that during Lent, somehow, I couldn't eat meat on Fridays.  I often gave myself a "dispensation", (invalid!) but whenever I actually considered God, this mysterious abhorrence to meat would overcome me on those days.  

So it was that somehow, I marginally practiced my Catholic faith even as the rest of my life was in a shambles. Somehow, God was there, reminding me of Him, especially during this very holy time of year.  

All of us are in need of conversion.  I LOVE conversion stories, and wrote my own back in 2005, which I recently took down. It needs a massive re-write, and massive editing, but also, I have to address ongoing conversion.  Conversion isn't a moment in time;  it's forever.  Conversion is the process that brings us ever-closer to Our Lord, and I'm constantly on that path - too often going backwards.  

Lent helps us reset our compasses, to redirect ourselves towards what is really important. The penitential disciplines aren't about following rules and just "doing stuff"; they have a point.  They are supposed to direct us to our true poverty, that being spiritual. We have to understand hunger and in that hunger, know that what we're really missing is God.  What we really need is Our Lord. 

Each year, I give things up, cut down on things, both sinful excesses and legitimate goods.  and each year, I fail, time and time again. 

What I've learned most recently is that this constant state of failure reminds me that I can do nothing of myself; it points me toward God's grace. It makes me understand that Jesus HAD to make His Sacrifice because I can't get to Heaven without it.  He leads by example, and my pitiful attempts are, in the long run, helping me to grow stronger.  Yet I'll never be strong enough to do it on my own. 

Today I went over some recent posts, just looking for ideas, and I observed a few patterns.  In one post, I looked through the eyes of the Rosary (not expressly stated) at the sacrifice of Christ, how He saw me, how everything He did was personal. Because this is something I struggle to accept, and yet, is so NECESSARY in my relationship with Him, I'm thinking I may take this Lent and pray the Rosary in a new way. 

Jesus knew who He was from conception;  Jesus always WAS a Divine Person, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  This is called "pre-existence Christology".  I'm not going to write about that right now, however, we need to understand that in His life on earth, Jesus was fully human AND fully Divine. He had the Beatific Vision before him from His very conception, and part of that included us: He saw each and every ONE of us, individually, and died for each and every one of us...personally.   

I'm working on my own version of rosary meditations for each Mystery, trying to see myself through Our Lord's eyes in His motivations, recognizing all that He did, all that He said...for me, personally.  It's not written, and may never be, but rather, part of a spiritual inventory, part of an ongoing conversation with the lover of my soul, the One who created me...the one who DIED on my behalf.  

On the surface, this may seem like a self-centered practice, however, it is not;  please allow me to explain:

It goes back to conversion;  conversion IS personal, and none of us can convert by judging others and looking for what THEY need. We need to understand what WE need to do to come closer to God.  We need to understand that Lent is the time for intense navel-gazing, not for the purpose of Pride...but in order to grow in Humility. The greatest source to inspire humility is the Sacrifice of Christ on our behalf...because we can't save ourselves from our sins, our spiritual impoverishment.  If we can come to embrace the reality that Christ suffered and died for us PERSONALLY...we grow in humility.  Knowing someone has paid the ultimate price for us NEVER results in ALWAYS results in a sense of unworthiness. 

And we ARE unworthy. 

One of the great fruits of the virtue of Humility is that it ultimately makes us look ONLY to God, it makes us consider what He did for us. And when we can finally see that, we can more easily see Christ in others. In humility, we can decrease so He can increase, and we can learn to see others through the eyes of Our Lord as well.

The Great Commandment, upon which the entire Law is hung, is "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself." 

We have to love ourselves as Christ loved us, which means following His example - and dying to ourselves. But we can't do that if we don't understand what He did, and that it was personal. That understanding frees us, conforms us to Him, and allows us to act as His hands on this earth. 

I've written often of the personal sacrifice of Christ, but I know I'm still in need of conversion, and so it seems I haven't fully internalized the understanding of what He did on Good Friday.  This Lent, I hope and pray that He will reveal Himself to me through my own weaknesses, so that I can be better conformed to Him, and through self-knowledge, be finally able to die to myself so that He can live in me and through me...forever.  

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Headless Chicken

My friends, you have not LIVED until you've been chased by a headless, sqwaking chicken. 


This might not be a post for the faint-of-heart.  Fair warning!!  

When I was a little girl, must have been pretty little, I remember riding my Big Wheel (remember those?) down the gravel road to Frank's Place, as we called it.  His nephews were staying with him that summer, and as one of the boys was about our age, we sort of absorbed them all into our neighborhood group.  

They were always nice to me, if they paid attention to me at all. As a little girl, I was usually just tagging along behind my older brother, but I liked to be in the mix, as it were, and so it placed me front and center one hot Saturday afternoon as the boys herded a chicken around the front yard of the house.  

We lived in a country neighborhood surrounded by farms, and some of our neighbors had horses (I got bucked off one neighbor's shetland pony once), but we didn't often see chickens running around. Naturally, I was fascinated. 

The boys were discussing something, and I was surprised to see one of them with an ax.  The other managed to grab one chicken, and, struggling a little, finally held his neck and his legs.  The  eldest brother, the one with the ax, asked him if he needed any help, but no, he had the chicken. 

My brother turned then, and suggested maybe I head home or go down the road for a bit  He suggested I at least move my Big Wheel.  I didn't want to go...I wanted to see what was going on.  I think someone took a toddler, Jenny, away so she wouldn't see whatever was about to happen. 

I had a bad feeling something was about to happen, but my curiosity was overwhelming.  I HAD to see and wouldn't let anyone drag me away.  If the other kids could be there, why not me?

The bigger kid with the ax glanced at me and asked if I was sure I wanted to be there, and when I nodded, he suggested I stand back. All of us took a step backward. My brother just shrugged.  Clearly, I was staying, and clearly, I didn't understand what was about to happen. 

They took the struggling, unhappy chicken and laid it on a large stump in Frank's sparse front yard, stretching its head out.  One brother held the head, another held the body, and the oldest held the ax.  

I never knew a chicken neck could stretch so much, and I was fascinated.  

The ax fell, and as soon as he struck wood, the other brothers let go. The chicken, in mad spasms, dropped to the ground, and to my horror, it started running around!  


And strangely enough, which I've never been able to figure out, it was still squawking!

The entire group of neighborhood kids began to scatter to get away from the insane headless chicken, which, to our way of thinking, should have been decent enough to lie down and die around that point.  

Apparently it had ONE other thing to do, though: go  chase after little curious Adoro to make sure she got a really good look
That obscene feathered monstrosity, with its flapping body and big bloody circle where the head used to be, suddenly stopped going in circles and made a beeline for me.  Now, I wasn't a particularly athletic child, but I realized I needed to RUN, and do so quickly so without a sound I ran towards my Big Wheel.  

The headless chicken was hot on my heels and all I knew is that I did. not. want. that. thing. to. TOUCH me!  I thought I might die. I knew it couldn't bite since the head was was supposed to be DEAD!  

I could hear the other kids laughing, and I knew the big kids who had cut off the chicken's head were watching this event with great relish, doubled-over laughing. 

I took a huge leap when I arrived at my Big Wheel, and managed to clear it in a single bound. 

I'm STILL proud of that jump...I couldn't have done that under normal circumstances and all the kids there were incredibly impressed. 

As  it was, that contraption, probably made by Fisher-Price, saved me. 

The headless chicken ran straight into one of the wheels and fell over, staggered to the side, ran in a couple lazy circles and finally decided it was most proper to lie down and die, since it didn't have its head, anyway.  

I stood back several feet, shaking, wondering what the heck had just happened. 

The other kids told me I could come back, and that the chicken wouldn't chase me anymore. They assured me he was done with his mischief.  I wasn't so sure. But finally, out of my same mad curiosity, and wondering about the group that now surrounded my Big Wheel, I moved towards it while one of the older boys pointed to the perfectly round red circle that now decorated one of the wheels.  A circle of blood.  From the chicken.  

Because the Big Wheel was mine, because the headless chicken had chased me, because my survival instinct had enabled me to leap the Big Wheel like Supergirl, and because it had left a big imprint...I was not the focus of derision, but of special devotion. The kind only a group of neighborhood kids knows about.  They looked at me, and at my Wheels, in awe.

It was my proof that, in fact, a dead chicken had chased me, and I had lived to tell about it.

The late chicken, himself, was at that time finally lying decently in the road, bleeding out through the headless portion of his body, creating quite a red puddle, some of which was soaking his feathers.  For the moment he was being ignored as the phenomena of his last act was being assessed, judged, and rendered important in our neighborhood history as one of the coolest things any of them had ever seen. 

My brother refused to ride my Big-Wheel home. I had to do it. I couldn't leave it there.  I had to ride it with that big red circle twirling around and around and around. 

As we headed home on that hot, humid summer afternoon, I still remember looking back as I rode, and at first the circle left a mark on the packed gravel road, but afterwards, it only picked up pebbles and dirt and the like.  Around and around, more and more pebbles but it only emphasized the big red splotch that had almost touched me, if my Big Wheel hadn't offered the ultimate sacrifice of being touched by the icky headless chicken.

And I peddaled harder to get away, but the bloody spot kept following. 

When I parked the Big Wheel at home, the big red mark was gleaming proudly in the sun so I just went inside, hoping maybe it wouldn't be there in the morning.  

I can't remember for how long, but that mark was there for WEEKS.  Even when the clotted red blood went away, there was a darkened circle I refused to ever touch. 

And to this day, I can't forget the headless chicken chasing me in its irrational spasms, chasing as if possessed, still squawking...still running...

What?  You all look at me as if you've never HAD this experience.  What...were you all raised in the city?  

Called to Communion

St. Thomas Aquinas is known for having written the Summa Theologica,  (among other works!) which was never finished.  He had a vision of Heaven and afterwards found it impossible to write anything further, and said of his Magnum Opus, "It is as straw!"  

Taken out of context, some would think his comment rendered the work useless;  this is far from the truth!  What he was stating was that in comparison to the Beatific Vision, nothing can compare. He had not yet written on Heaven, and found it impossible to address in writing what "eye has not seen, ear has not heard".  

I'm actually having a similar moment right now...

For our Ecclesiology course this semester, we are reading "Called to Communion" by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. The chapter, "A Company in Constant Renewal" is so amazing that it's almost COMPLETELY marked up at this point. I've dog-eared the pages at top and bottom to note passages for class or for personal edification, things to write about, things to re-read, etc. 

He says everything I want to say, but says it better, with a lot more knowledge and wisdom, and informs me where I'm lacking. Which is exactly what he SHOULD have been doing as a Cardinal, and now Pope!  

My is as straw!  I'm not sure I can ever write again after reading this book!  

It was interesting to see how he used a Thomistic format in his writing, at least to my untrained eye.  Throughout the chapter, he addressed first the objections and misunderstandings and summarized the answers of those who think the Church is a political organization.  After making a few such points, he responded with the "On the Contrary"(although not in those words) and gave the answer as to what the Church IS and why, revealing Truth, pointing out the divinity of the Church in a world that wants to make it human.  He clearly answered each objection.

It is only by allowing the Church to be divine, as she truly is, that we will ever, and the Church herself, can ever become fully human.  

I'm going to let the Pope speak for himself: 

"A church based on human resolutions becomes a merely human church. It is reduced to the level of the makeable, of the obvious, of opinion. Opinion replaces faith. And in fact, in the sself-made formulas of faith with which I am acquainted, the meaning of the words 'I believe' never signifies anything beyond 'we opine'. Ultimately, the self-made church savors of the 'self', which always has a bitter taste to the other self and just as soon reveals its petty insignificance. A self-made church is reduced to the empirical domain and thus, precisely as a dream, comes to nothing." 
 ~ (p. 139-140)


I can think of a few examples that exemplify that perfectly.  

Now, for a little Christian Anthropology compliments of the Pope:  

Michelangelo considered the proper activity of the artist to be an act of uncovering, of releasing - not of making. 

The same conception, applied to anthropology in general, is found in St. Bonaventure, who explains the path by which man truly becomes himself with the help of the likeness of the sculptor. The sculptor...does not make anything, rather his work is "ablatio" - the removal of what is not really part of the sculpture.  In the same way, continues Bonaventure, man, in order that God's image may shine radiantly in him, must first and foremost receive the purification whereby the divine Sculptor frees him from that dross that conceals the authentic figure of his being.
~ (p. 141-142)  

And I'm seeing more of our foundation showing up now...last semester we read, in Spiritual Theology, Bonaventure's "Journey to the Mind of God", and this is what is being referenced in the above passage.  However, I don't think one must be familiar with that work in order to understand the above passage.  

There's so much here, so I'll leave you to ponder the two passages above.   Our Pope is a man of great wisdom who sees the world as it truly is, and is giving of himself in every way that he can in order to help us all understand the ends to which we are directed through the ministry of Christ through His Church. 

Pray for the Pope...he's leading us into the future, and needs us all to help him do this work. 

Friday, February 20, 2009

Enemies of the World

We have to make a choice...all of us. 

As Catholics, the world hates us with a passion of hatred we cannot fathom.  It's everywhere.  We see it in popular media in the ongoing and obviously biased articles about the Church in which they can't write about something positive without focusing on whatever is wrong.  We see it in movies and television programs that paint all of the priesthood with a brush that labels ALL of them as drunk, unhappy pedophiles.   Religious sisters or nuns are shown as either complete idiots or women bearing scowls and rulers used to beat children into submission. 

In general, as the Catholic laity, we are called upon to defend our Faith, but where to begin?  The hatred attacks us from all sides.  And people we think are our friends buy into the hype of mainstream media (MSM), and assume the worst of us, and assume our positions on any given thing. 

We are rendered voiceless because of their inability to listen. 

We find this even WITHIN the Church, from people who are otherwise good Catholics, but cannot intellectually separate themselves from their own personal pain, and instead choose to hold on to the bonds of emotion without understanding what it is they are really grasping. 

We see this in those "Catholics" that argue for the "right to abortion" and "right to use contraception";  those who argue for such "rights" outright refuse to see the harm done to the woman who kills her child, refuse to see the physical effects of contraception on the woman who takes those poisonous chemicals into her body and the subsequent damage to her and her entire family.

We also see a problem in our society of pluralism;  many Catholics don't understand that the fullness of Truth resides in the Catholic Church, period.  This is not triumphalism.  There are those I know who grew up hearing that those "outside the Catholic Church can't be saved."  

The fact is this:  those baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and the Holy Spirit are inducted into the Catholic family, even if they don't attain the fullness of the Faith by virtue of the other Sacraments and full Communion with the Church.  Thus...they are coming to God through Christ, and thus, they CAN be saved. 

The ONLY way to get to Heaven is through Christ. If we are baptized Catholics, we are OBLIGATED to believe this.  

No, we don't know what happens to people who aren't baptized, or were never given that option. We can't speak for centuries of pagans who were perhaps better people than we are.  We entrust them to the Mercy of Our Lord.  Can they be saved?  We can't say...God can, and He alone has the authority to judge the salvation of souls.  We certainly can't claim our own salvation, no matter how holy we think we are, for we are all sinners. 

At work, I've had to fight this battle...the claim of some that can't understand that to claim to be a member of the one True Church isn't's Truth. Period.  

Often simple definitions are needed, so here they are:

Catholic:  Those who profess the Catholic Faith (to include many Rites...Byzantine, Maronite, Ukranian...etc.) and believe and follow all that the Church teaches with regard to faith and morals. (In other words...Pelosi is a declared Catholic, but not in full communion because she dissents...thus she is not really Catholic. All who follow her typology...likewise)  

Non-Catholic:   Anyone who does not profess the Catholic Faith:  to include other Christian religions, all pagan religions, secularism, atheism, etc

Christian:  Catholic and Christian religions who recognize the Trinity, recognize that Christ died for our sins. This is a very broad category.  

Time and time again, I run into people at work (in a Catholic Church), and in my real life who profess Catholicism but embrace pluralism;  they have tight bonds to their non-Catholic friends and family, and so fear offending them that they nearly canonize them even as they live.  Teens and adults alike have a hard time articulating it's OK to profess the Faith of Christ and understanding true ecumenism involves bring OTHERS into our Faith...whether they be Baptist, Wiccan, Muslim, Amish, Mennonite (my cousin * ahem *), Lutheran, Bah'ai, etc.  

Ecumenism isn't triumphalism and it isn't is entirely geared towards conversion of ourselves and others into what is the TRUTH, and that ENTIRE Truth is found in the Catholic Church.  


I'm not going to apologize for that fact.  If you're looking for one, go elsewhere.  

As a Catholic, I am an enemy of the world. Not because I choose to be, but because the WORLD chooses me as it's enemy, just as it chose Our Lord whom I follow.  They killed Christ, and He was under threat from the beginning of His life...but did not compromise.  There are many ways to follow Him, many manifestations, and I've met people of many different Christian religions who love Him and follow accordingly.  We are ALL enemies of the world, because we refuse to engage the world on its terms; on that of the Church. 

We of many religions stand together in love of Christ, enemies of the world that rages around us, at us, condemning us, vilifying us.  

And I, for one, wouldn't have it any other way

Hollywood can do what it wants;  it doesn't affect my faith, but makes it stronger.  The culture of atheism can sue us all they want...we won't acquiesce to their doctrine.  Planned Parenthood can shout us down all they want;  we'll continue to have children even if we have to do so illegally.   Our Bishops will continue to ordain new Priests, ESPECIALLY under persecution, for that very persecution is what most inspires Vocations...for we all desire a love for which we are willing to die. 

Christianity sprouted from the side of Christ, from His Sacrifice on the Cross...why should we, as His Mystical Body expect to do any different?  Just as He set the example in life, He set it in his Death, and invites us to the Resurrection.  

I've said it before and I'll say it again:  I'm Catholic before anything else. I'm Catholic even before I'm woman. Everything else comes second.  And I don't care who is offended by that fact.  Our forebears died for the Truth...we can withstand a little light persecution, can't we?  

That's not to say we should not defend our Faith...indeed we should, and without compromise!  But we should not be so surprised that we are reviled. We should not be surprised when our friends leave us, we should not be surprised when trolls spam our blogs with profanity.  

I've lost friends in the embrace of the Truth, and I'll no doubt lose more or put off more in the years to come. So be it.  I belong to Christ first...everyone else in my life, in comparison, is incidental. 

Don't take that personally.  

I am NOT willing to compromise my Faith in order to keep a friendship.  I will discuss, I will explain, I will listen, I will enjoin...but I will not compromise.  Period. 

Our Faith does not come from us, it comes from God;  those who have a problem with our Faith have a problem with God and they take it out on us.  That's a fact. 

So when we become Christian, we are, in a sense, agreeing that this is going to happen and we're willing to suffer it.  

We must also be willing to fight it, in charity, in Truth, and always in seeking a deeper understanding.  

I am an enemy of the world. I'd be a friend if I could, but the world won't have me, just as it wouldn't have Christ. 

What do YOU choose? 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In Love

I'm not sure when it happened. It wasn't a single moment, like a drop of dew forming on the petal of a rose, that both reflects the light and takes on the vibrant hue of the flower simulataneously.

It took longer. It was tiny seed that grew, and became something hidden, then poked through the earth, constantly expanding, growing, constantly evolving, becoming something new, but staying the same, always connected, for it is the foundation that made it grow. And it was fed by the exterior elements that I took in, akin to sunshine and water...feeding me, feeding what was growing.

I don't know the moment I fell in love with Jesus. I only know that I did, and since then, everything has been different.

There have been moments, snapshots in time, but more a sense of growing wonder, of closeness, of His voice, His presence, His example.  When I look at the crucifix, I see love, intermingled with the suffering, but the love is dominant.  Who would do such a thing...but for love?

This has been growing for years now, and when I first came to realize it, I fled in tears, terrified.  Why ME?  I'm not worthy!  I wanted to be invisible in a crowd...why was Jesus looking at ME?  How could He notice?  Why?

But He has been patient, and waited for me to come back. No pressure, just a gentle draw.  I was like the doe beside the stream, wanting to drink, testing the air, ready to flee. And Our Lord stood with His hand out, waiting, unmoving.  Never forceful.  Letting me come according to my time and my need.  Letting me flee, knowing I'd be back.

All He asked me to do was Trust. He supplied all the love.

And waited.  He's still waiting.  I can see Him more clearly now, holding out His hand.  Waiting.

That's what love does. Waits. Sacrifices. Gives.

On Sunday, when I arrived at Mass, as I opened my breviary I offered a little prayer, to be answered if it be God's will.  Just a small prayer, knowing He may not answer, but wanting to reach back to Him, wanting to understand something.

He answered, throughout the Mass. It wasn't about feeling or fact, I was pretty "dry", but heard Him in every word.  Phrases that stuck out. Surprising phrases. The choice of music...speaking directly to me, not coincidental.  And then, startlingly, at Communion, my name, called specifically, followed by one of my deepest prayers, contained in a phrase, one that had been unuttered but present nontheless.

Knowing those words were directed towards me, that my prayer had been inspired by the Holy Spirit, and that my love was not apart from the love of others present, that the love expressed to me was not for me alone, but applied to others. That the Sacrifice at which I was present was for me personally just as it was for many of us, personally.  We who choose to accept it.

Over the last few years, though, what has revealed love to me hasn't been what the world thinks defines it.  REAL Love is something far harsher, something that doesn't allow one to turn back and turn it away.  It gives us the choice in the very beginning...drink of this cup...or turn it away? Once we've accepted it, we can't possibly turn away; real love is a permanent decision, which does not allow room for divorce or separation, for malignment, adultery; it does not allow us to run away. It is a decision for life.  

I've had to make that choice in different situations, again and again. Every day. Every moment.  So often I fail. But Our Lord is faithful, and continually makes His offering.  Teaching me what it means to sacrifice. To give of ourselves.


I'm not there yet. He's still calling. I'm still running away, but there's a difference now;  before when I ran, I ran in tears, terrified.  Then I began running in rebellion.  And now I'm running out of habit, because it's what I'm used to doing, but what I really DESIRE is to be running the other way.  A year or so ago I spoke briefly with a priest at my parish, astounded after an evening of prayer with some Sisters. I told him, "I think this is for real...", and all he said was, "Run to Him."

I know now that when I run, I'll be running to the Cross.  If I love Our Lord, I must love suffering, I must embrace suffering, I must embrace joy, I must embrace all that the Cross represents.  I must embrace eternity.

What is love?  I didn't used to know.

Maybe I still don't.  Today, as I spoke about children, a woman, a mother with a wry expression asked me, "Do you have children?"


I was almost ashamed.  Never mind that I'm not married and never have been.  The expression on her face said enough.  It said I didn't have credibility, I couldn't possibly understand.  She nodded, smiling cynical, reserving judgment. But I could see through her eyes...I wished she could see Christ in mine.  I'm not sure if He was there or if it was just me.

What she didn't understand is that I don't have biological children; mine are spiritual.  She's one of them.

That's what it means to embrace the have your own children reject you.

Jesus knew about this. Mary knew about this.

I'm only just learning.

But it makes me love Him more. Because it's what I've done to everyone who ever really loved me through my entire life.  Rejected them.

That's what love is really about. Rejection. Self-Sacrifice. Redemption.

It's not gushy feelings. It's not a cheap money-shot in a B-movie. It's not a one-liner or a momentary experience.

It's real. It's enduring. It's harsh...and it's bonding.  It's deeper than any physical union.

I think I'm in love with Jesus, and I don't ever want to be in love with anyone else.  He is enough for me.

I only pray I can live up to His invitation...whatever it is.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Faithful and Canon Law

This weekend was PACKED with great information, and I have to say, this is my favorite semester thus far!  And I think Canon Law is my favorite class so far, which shouldn't be surprising;  after all, my undergrad degree is in Criminal Justice!  

Which makes me think:  back in school, I considered studying theology as I thought it interesting. Perhaps I'd be a Canon Lawyer now if I had. As it was, I considered Law School, even recently as a combined Catholic Studies degree through the University of St. Thomas. But God's will be done, here I am years later working on an MTS with all the elements of my interest forming a very interesting pattern on God's tapestry.  

But I digress, as usual.  

There's a lot to discuss, and I think maybe the most important thing should be used to start our discussion.  Who are the Faithful?   According to Can. 205:  

"Those baptized are fully in the communion of the Catholic church on this earth who are joined with Christ in its visible structure by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical governance."  

So, what does this mean?  Let's unpack it.  
The above Canon is stating five things:  The Faithful must be 1. Baptized, 2. Joined with Christ in Visible Structure, 3. by the bonds of the Profession of Faith (which we pray every Sunday),  4. the Sacraments, and 5. Ecclesiastical Governance. 

1.  Baptism:  

Those who fall outside of the above are not Catholic.  Take note, then:  all who are baptized, including those of other Christian religions, therefore, are baptized also into the Catholic Faith, for we share, through the Trinitarian formula, a common Baptism of Christ. 

This is why those who convert to Catholicism from a different Christian religion do not need to be baptized again (if they were baptized in their own tradition).  If the Trinitarian (In the name of the Father, of the Son, and the Holy Spirit) is used, it is a valid Catholic baptism.  That may surprise some people, but like it or not, if they are baptized through this formula they are introduced into the Catholic community.  

HOWEVER!  Do NOT take that out of context, for the Canon goes on to define what FULL COMMUNION means, and those who have only a common baptism are not in full communion with the Church and thus are not entitled to the same rights!  

This is why it's such a concern when people are "baptized" by a radical feminist formula, that being the "Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier".  The problem is that these are different "modes", different jobs that God does, however, it's also the heresy of Modalism, also called "Sabellianism".  It's not Catholic, it's not Trinitarian, and thus, it is invalid.  Those "baptized" by such a formula have not entered the Church.  

2.  Visible Structure: 

The next point, to be in "full communion" means to be joined with Christ in the visible structure of the Church.  This also needs to be understood.  The Church is made up of only TWO types of people:   Clerics and laity.  Those are the two juridic status available to us.  

Religious are NOT another category;  those who are monks, friars, sisters, or nuns are LAITY.  They are consecrated laity, but they are NOT Clerics and are NOT in "Holy Orders", which is a Sacrament that ONLY applies to Clerics. 

Now, there are some who seem to believe that the only way to be "fully Catholic" is to enter the ranks of the Clergy.  Um, no.  It is not possible to become "more Catholic" than a Baptized, Confirmed Catholic who regularly receives the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion. That applies to Both Clergy and Laity.  Thus, a Priest is not "more Catholic"  or necessarily more holy than the laity.  Nor does this status take away from the Clerical state, for they do have a certain dignity given to them by God by virtue of their ordination, but it's not a dignity that makes them somehow "more Catholic" than the rest of us.  

Christ's plan of salvation is entirely inclusive of us all, and we all have a very important role to fulfill.   It is the role of the Priest to stand in persona Christi that Our Lord might come to us through his hands, that we might be forgiven and restored to full communion when we have sinned gravely, and it is the role of the Priest to introduce us to Christ so that we will all understand what it means to be His Bride.  It is his role to stand in for Christ so that we will be properly fed.  Complimentarily,  it is the role of the Laity to take what graces and the teachings we are given from the Word of God and from exposition on that Word from the pulpit and the Sacraments, and take that into the world in order that the Gospel might be spread. 

 THAT'S POWERFUL!  We ALL must speak for Christ, we are ALL given that authority by virtue of our baptism, and we all have the DUTY to do so! 

The reality is that both the Laity and the Clergy need one another, and we need to stand in our proper roles, in response to Christ's own personal invitation to us all.  The fact that some are called to the Priesthood does not denigrate the role of Marriage, and Marriage does not denigrate the role of Religious vows, and none of those Vocations denigrates the role of the person called to be Single, for we are all, in the way designed by God, to be holy in our own state in life, whether Clergy or Laity.  

Now, there are some who think the Church is invisible. It's not. It's extremely visible, and made up of the hierarchy that Christ established.  We have a governance, we have people, we have a real structure.  We as either Clergy or laity are involved in that structure. 

3.  Profession of Faith

Every Sunday and Solemnity, we pray together at Mass the Nicene Creed, which is our Profession of Faith. 

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
and of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father. [original language:  consubstantial with the Father - St. Flavian WAS MARTYRED for those words!]
Through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation,
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered, died, and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in fulfillment of the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge
the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he
is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic
and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism
for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.


THAT is our Faith, summarized there. And people have DIED for that declaration of Faith! Bishop St. Flavian was one of them; he was trampled to death by the raging Arians.  If the above is not what you are praying at Mass, then you are NOT in full communion with the Church. The above words CANNOT be changed to suit a different ideology; they have been dogmatically defined and the above is an INFALLIBLE teaching.  

4.  The Sacraments

Besides Baptism, the Church recognizes Seven Sacraments:  Baptism (already discussed), Confession, Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Annointing of the Sick.  The Sacraments are what make us the Mystical Body of Christ.  

Understand that Canon Law cannot be taken apart from moral theology;  Canon Law has a proper context, and the rest of that context has to be taken into consideration when considering the different laws.  Mere reception of a Sacrament is not what brings us into full communion; we have to be properly disposed. 

Thus, if we have cut ourselves off from the Church through apostasy or mortal sin or something else, then we may not receive the Sacraments without Sacramental Confession.  Only then can we return to the foot of the Cross and receive Our Lord in the Eucharist and be re-united with the rest of the Body, and with Our Lord.  

5.  Ecclesiastical Governance

As the Faithful, we fall under the authority of the Church, and our way to holiness is guided by the governance as established by Our Lord, showing us HOW we are to become holy.  Governance indicates our rights and duties as the Faithful, to which we must adhere, and with a little information, we might understand not to be restricting, but freeing.  

I believe that this last point would be better addressed in further posts on the rights and duties of the Faithful.  

Saturday, February 14, 2009


There's been something I've been turning over in my mind for a few days, and it disturbs me greatly, because it's not something I can do much to fix. 

We know that every great gift God gives us can be twisted and used for evil.  Sexuality, internet...and music, for example.  

This week one of my catechists brought in some Gregorian Chant for his students.  In the fall, we'd had an event for all the religious ed. kids, and in it we played Chant.  Many of them enjoyed the music, or inquired about it, and this catechist's class wanted to know more. 

I stopped in at his class at the end of the session, although I'd missed the music portion, he turned it back on for me while the boys were leaving.  

One of them expressed his opinion as only a middle school boy can:  "I hate it. I can't stand it!"

It doesn't bother me that he doesn't like the music; whether it is liked or not is not a factor in the fact that it is proper liturgical music, and his personal preferences doesn't change that. 

But what DOES bother me was his qualifier, for he gave the clear reason for his dislike:   "It's creepy. It sounds like it's from a horror movie.  Scary music."  

Right there, in a nutshell;  there's the problem.  

Gregorian chant has been corrupted by media, and now, in a traditional Pavlovian way, our younger generations now think it's creepy. 

I've written before on the use of Catholic symbols and music in movies or television shows that portray a Catholic Church or anything related to Catholicism.  Even though one rarely enters a church these days to the prayerful chanting of a schola,  EVERY. SINGLE. PRODUCTION uses this music to cue us in to the religion being attacked...uh...portrayed.   Catholic. 

The horror genre is especially gleeful in its use of Gregorian Chant in scary sequences, say, when introducing a vampire or a corrupt priest. Or maybe the priest is fine, but we know that when we hear Chant, a demon-infested child is about to appear and screech in writhing agony, terrifying everyone...with the chant sedately playing in the background, human voices apparently disinterested at the intense suffering taking place in their presence. 

The use of this music in media venues has quite literally caused our younger generations to look at the horrible things going on in the picture, while the music plays, and voila! They now associate evil and Gregorian Chant. 

It's not surprising.  

And what about every freaking show that has a corrupt priest in it?  A Pedophile priest?  A faithful priest who has maybe heard the confession of an abuser (either clergy or lay) and (RIGHTLY!) refuses to break the seal of the confessional?  What's playing in the background?  Gregorian Chant. 

I would suggest that although individuals in Hollywood might not have been consciously considering the Pavlovian training they've been providing to their lab subjects (i.e.  us), the One they serve knew exactly what he was doing. 

Oh, yes, the smoke of Satan, as St. Pius X called it.  (Was it St. Pius X?).  

And when something pure and beautiful, something that is prayer and praise and thanksgiving to God becomes associated with something evil, that can send a very strong message.  It's not subliminal;  it's obvious. And odious. 

That's what the middle school boy observed, and it's how he's been indoctrinated. 

So when we, or his catechist, in doing something good, brings Gregorian Chant into an event or classroom, rather than being calming, it's natural that some students are going to have a violent dislike of what they're hearing. 

And how the Evil One must be gleefully rejoicing in his eternal damnation.  

So. Now we realize the problem.  Now we have to combat it. And the ONLY way to do that is to use it more, to associate it with good things, with fun things, with HOLY things. The answer isn't to take it away just because it's been warped by our cultural corruption;  the answer is to bring it back, gently, persistently, prayerfully, and let God do the rest.  

Thankfully, not every child had that reaction, and that likely speaks more about what the parents are allowing their children to see at home (which concerns me more than the child's reaction).  We need to realize that this beauty, Gregorian Chant, this great gift of the Church, which Vatican II said specifically must maintain a high place in the liturgy, NEEDS to be used!  If it's never heard at Mass, guess where the kids are getting it, and with what they are associating it!?

We wouldn't have this problem if parishes were obedient to the directives of Vatican II.  

Our fallen nature corrupts everything we touch;  but the good news is that God created us to be directed towards Him. To elevate our wills, our intellect, Him. And that means we can still turn this ship around and point it back in His direction. We can save our symbols, we can save our music, we can save our children through being holy, through using what has always been holy...for the proper purpose. 

And that will make ALL the difference in the world. 

If we don't use what we've been given, it will be commandeered for evil. That's a fact, and it's happened, and continues to happen. We NEED to bring back Chant; it belongs to OUR tradition, it is part of OUR patrimony, and its misuse is affecting OUR children in a very negative way! 

I look forward to the discussion in the combox. 


Friday, February 13, 2009

Jesus Died for You

This morning I was feeling quit dejected and frustrated. It's been a difficult week, and the worst part about it is that I haven't handled it well. I've been awful, and I can't wait to get to Confession so that I can get rid of all this "yuck" that encases me.  

And yet, I'm also dreading Confession. I know what I deserve, and I know I need to confront myself before God, honestly, without reserve, and it's never a pleasant experiece to recognize how holy I'm NOT.  

Until I get there, though, I feel, spiritually, almost physically, like Pig Pen in the "Peanuts" comics; I'm all dirty and I've got a nasty smelly cloud surrounding me, and everything I touch is soiled, too.
Sin does that. Nothing is hidden. God sees all, knows all. And all we have to do is come to Him and ask for forgiveness, because we agree, too, that we've sinned. 

I had to  take a quick run to the store this morning, and en route, I was mentally reviewing my week, hating the sense of being so soiled.  My own sin was weighing heavily upon me, and truth be told, still does. As it should; I'm in need of sacramental healing. I need to hear the words of absolution.  

Then I passed a church, and happened to glance at the sign adjacent to the road.  The words were simple, but they were just for me, in that moment: 

"Jesus Died for You" 

Simply stated. 

I mentally stopped my torturous mental inventory and focused on that one all-important Truth:  Jesus died for me. 

He saw me from even before His conception, and still willingly chose to be conceived and suffer this life. He took me upon his shoulders when He entered the waters of the Jordan, giving His very conscious fiat to God and to us. He saw me in the Garden of Gethsemane, and sweated blood in order to take on my just punishment.  He saw me as He was scourged at the pillar, and met my sin head-on, gazing at me with compassion, even as His flesh was visciously stripped from Him. He saw me when He was crowned with thorns, and uttered not a word of protest, taking my own rebellion into His own skin, letting it rip His own flesh. He saw me when He carried His cross, and did not condemn me, for He was suffering that I might not be condemned. And He took the nails meant for me into his own hands and feet, and died so that I would not suffer the eternal agony to which I have deserved time and time again.

He took on my sin. He saw everything, and still died...for me.  He became accursed...for me. 

Jesus died for me. 

It matters that I've sinned, and it's important that I accuse myself before God, and to the priest, of my sin in the Sacrament of Confession. It's important that I keep the suffering face of Christ before me, remembering His uncondemning gaze, so that as I accuse myself, I remember what matters even more; that Jesus died for me.  

Over and over again, I consider these words, and realize how much I need to remember them, how much I need to focus on them, especially when considering knowledge of my own personal responsibility. There is nothing we can do that will cause God to not love us anymore.  He saw everything, and went to the cross without protest, because it was the only way to expiate our sin. We can't do it ourselves. 

We need to depend on Him. 

And the more I go to Confession, the more I understand my sorrowful condition.  With a deepened understanding of my own wretched propensity towards sin, the more I love God. And the more I love God, the more I hate my sin, and the more I understand the suffering of Our Lord.

And the more I understand His suffering...the more I understand what real love is all about.  

Thank you, Jesus.