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Monday, August 31, 2009

Official Announcements from the St. Paul-Minneapolis Diocese

The following announcements are canonically required and serve to notify the Faithful of problematic situations or people in the diocese and Church. These are official directives from Archbishop Nienstedt and his words need to be obeyed, for they are spoken out of concern and love for we, the Faithful.

I am publishing the full text of both announcements:

Official Announcement

Saint Paul, MN, August 2009 – It has come to the attention of the Archdiocese that a group calling itself the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) is planning a 2010 ‘synod’ in the Archdiocese entitled, ‘Claiming Our Place at the Table’.

While the agenda for the proposed synod purports to be an exploration of the role of baptized Catholics within the institutional Church of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, it is not being conducted under the auspices of the Archdiocese, the universal Roman Catholic Church, or any entity or organization affiliated with the Archdiocese or the universal Roman Catholic Church.

The Archdiocese wishes it to be known that the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform, the 2010 synod, and individuals endorsing the same, are not agents or entities of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis or the Roman Catholic Church. Moreover, the Archdiocese wishes to lovingly caution those members of the faithful participating in the ‘work/study groups’ and intending to attend the synod of the potential that the issues on which CCCR will seek reform are magisterial teachings of the Church, and are therefore to be believed by divine and catholic faith. The Archdiocese also wishes to remind the faithful of its need to shun any contrary doctrines, and instead to embrace and retain, to safeguard reverently and expound faithfully, the doctrine of faith and morals proposed definitively by the magisterium of the Church.

****Author's Note: The phrase "therefore to be believed by divine and catholic faith" indicates that the problem with this group have to do with the highest order of teachings, therefore the "reforms" this group is seeking to make are declared Heresies. The penalty for participating in such "reforms" has to do with Canon 1364.1, Heresy/Apostacy and can lead to the penalty of excommunication.

Official Announcement

On June 26, 2009, the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, decreed that Deacon Martin Kelly Shanahan, a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, is dismissed from the clerical state ex officio et in poenam and released from all obligations of the clerical state. This supreme penalty was imposed on Mr. Shanahan after he abandoned the Catholic Church, sought 'priestly ordination' from a female bishop of the Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church, and then attempted to administer the sacraments (simulation). The same decree indicated that the canonical censures incurred by Mr. Shanahan as a result of his schism remain in force.

The Archdiocese wishes the faithful to be aware that any ‘Mass’ or sacrament administered by Mr. Shanahan, with the exception of baptism, is invalid. The August 2000 declaration by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Iesus, does not apply to Mr. Shanahan’s attempted presbyteral ordination nor does it make any statement regarding the validity of the Orders of the Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church.

I would encourage ALL of my readers to read Dominus Iesus for yourselves, for your own edificiation and education, but keeping in mind that it's not about Mr. Shanahan. (Hint: You'll only understand what is being said in this communication from the Archdiocese if you read the document. GO READ!)

To all of my faithful readers (and even the unfaithful ones!), keep an eye on your Archdiocesan web pages and newspapers where these announcements are published and promulgated. They are important for you to know and even to disseminate on your own to others of the faithful who might be in danger of succombing to the popular heresies of the time.

There are a LOT of lukewarm, uncatechized Catholics who simply don't see why they can't participate in heretical "reforms" because they don't know that they are heresy. There are people who don't know what Ecclesial Communities are in union with Rome or are in Schizm but claiming a Catholic title.

You don't have to have a blog to help the Bishop disseminate information to others, and in fact, as the faithful, it is your DUTY to assist him in this.

Please pray for any souls that lead others astray or are led astray themselves by those who seek to usurp or destroy the Church.

Mantilla-twitch and Hat-tip to Ray Marshall at Stella Borealis

Why are you looking at me funny? Can't I wear a mantilla and a hat at the same time?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Am I Oppressed?

I continue to come across blog posts, online comments, and real-life discussions delving into the "role of women" and condemning the position of the Catholic Church, claiming that the Church is "oppressive" and even "treats women as sex objects."

It is absolutely astounding and heartbreaking to me that someone would so misunderstand and even outright twist the teachings of the Church to support such a position, for claiming such is nothing but an outright lie.

I've written before about how I used to be a feminist, and I fully admit that I am STILL a feminist, but one with the original understanding going back thousands of years...and this doesn't mean what YOU might think it means.

In Brief:

To recap a little for those who aren't familiar with my story, I went to college for Law Enforcement, did become a Police Officer for a time, and have worked since then in many male-dominated jobs. During my training I tried to suppress any female inclinations (well, beyond the fact that I am attracted to men and always believed in Marriage!), to the degree possible. I had a "tough" veneer, worked hard to desensitize myself to things and suppress any natural emotional response to anything, thinking that to have empathy, to show emotions made me "girly" and would thus cause me to lose the respect of my male peers, maybe even my female peers.

Oh, sure, I painted my nails, wore makeup, and had long hair, but my attitudes revealed a very deep misunderstanding of what it meant to be a woman while I continued to give in to the culture surrounding me.

I will say no more of my history, other than to say that as I returned to my Faith, I have had to struggle a great deal with who I thought I was...and who God created me to be as His adopted daughter and potential Bride of Christ. I have to admit that this has been a big issue in my vocational discernment, and one that is ongoing as I try to resolve my crustiness against the need for holiness.

Contemporary Misunderstandings of Historical Realities

Because of the scourge of radical "feminism", the role of women in the Church is often misunderstood, even very intentionally so! To "misunderstand" is a way that we seek directly to justify ourselves in our unbelief or attitudes that are comfortable to us and our circle of friends. I do not point fingers at anyone in this, for it is human nature to do this with regard to any attitude or sin we hold dearly. It's an unfortunate part of our fallen nature, and something against which we need to remain on guard. Because of this, I cut radical feminists absolutely NO slack because I used to be one (or very close) too, and I remember the unspoken thought processes we shared, innately understanding, as well as the power of propaganda and rhetoric that we used to ignore rational discussions that sought to educate.

It was a lot easier to slam the Church or "misdirect" the discussion to something "peaceful" than to actually recognize the Church in her wisdom actually had something to offer...and that was salvation.

No one ever condemned me for my feminist attitudes. They didn't have to. The few people I met who didn't agree with my disordered ideology offered measured, truthful, and calm words, which were enough to lead me to condemn myself. Don't tell me, then, not to "judge", for I have been there; because of that, I actually have nothing but pity for those women who continue to engross themselves in their condemnations of the Church's constant pleas to recognize their (our!) true dignity as women created in the image and likeness of God!

People, both within the Church (sadly!) and without, have the impression that women are "excluded" in some way, or "oppressed" by an evil hierarchy. Those who stay in the Church actively work to disseminate their disobedience and misinformation "within" (which isn't actually possible, theologically) to try to destroy the hierarchy established by Christ and enforced by the Holy Spirit. Those from outside the Church work hard to crush this beautiful Bride made up of men and women both, this Bride born from the side of Christ, whom He loved so dearly He gave everything to save.

Instead of being open to the message of the love of Christ and beauty of woman, these people try to destroy beauty in order to spiritually photo shop their own disordered political and even sexual ideals.

The imagery and reality of true feminism reigns in both the Old and New Testaments; we see it in the images used in the prophets to explain the undying loyalty of a husband (God) to his wife (His people) in spite of her vile unfaithfulness. We see it in the stories of Hannah, Sarah, Rebekah, Judith, and Esther, (among others), all powerful and heroic women who stand as representatives of the Church, proleptic of the role of Mary.

The greatest of God's creation wasn't a Man (for Christ Himself is God so stands outside of this paradigm), but a Woman, that being she who bore Him. She stands above all men as an example to ALL.

I've also written previously on a few Biblical stories often misinterpreted to justify the false idea of "unjust patriarchal dominance" and that post can be found here, if you are so inclined. (That article is actually one of my most popular based on the number of clicks it receives in web searches.)

The Reality of Being a Catholic Woman

In honestly living my Catholic faith, I have to say that never before have I ever felt so respected as a human being.

I count among my closest friends and associates both clergy (priests) and laity (everyone else.) In our everyday contacts, in their friendship and even in randomly passing, they affirm my femininity and value in ways the secular culture tries so desperately to destroy. It is they who urge me on towards God, to bring my gifts (whether practical or spiritual) to enhance the Church, and if I do so, they reveal how it in turn enhances their own calling and also directs them also on to greater holiness.

I have to ask...what in these relationships is "oppressive"?

On the Role of Women

This discussion would be incomplete if I did not address this, the biggest cultural discussion on the topic of women and the Church.

I think that many outsiders and those who maybe have only seen the distorted side of Catholic teaching (sadly too often taught by Catholic laity in leadership positions) get the impression that the only reason the Church bans contraception is to keep women "barefoot and pregnant" and in the service of her husband.

It's true that the Church values family, and I know of many large Catholic families, counting many of them among my friends! It's also true that a parish community does tend to revolve around family life and activities that help to build the family, and in this, often seems to exclude, unintentionally, the large number of single men and women of all ages (for we are the product of our culture, the lost sheep.)

I used to have some bitterness about all this family-orientation, not feeling called to motherhood, and feeling that, if I wasn't, then I must be good for nothing at all. I didn't WANT to be a religious for in looking at religious life as it has been lived out for so long, I saw nothing but the road I had already been down (embrace of New Age spirituality, etc.) and I figured I could live a better life in finding employment as a Social Worker all on my own.

I felt like I was all alone as a woman in the Church, and that there wasn't really a place for me. I kept hearing about "roles" and in looking at the Church, wanted to figure out what "role" I was supposed to fill even as nothing seemed to fit.

It took several years, and when I finally fully returned to my faith, I met other young men and women who realized that "role" was the wrong question. The Church isn't about "roles". That is a secular term arising out of our utilitarian non-philosophical age, much to the detriment of all.

We were not created to become "roles". We were created out of love, by God, for God, for love. "Role" can't possibly come close to suggesting meaning especially in this supernatural institution of the Catholic Church.

"Role" is meaningless

My "role", then, as a woman in the Church doesn't involve family and children. It's not about my job (I am employed in a parish), or about any liturgical business I might serve in the future or have served in the past.

Trying to define "women's roles" is really the wrong question entirely, and in so doing, completely ignores the reality of what the Church is, WHO she Is, and what she has to say about Herself.

"Who are You? And what am I?"

The above quote, I believe, comes from St. Francis (please correct me if I'm wrong on this), and it's the question we all need to address deeply when we think we are lost and without purpose. It is only in relation to God that we can discover our true identity.

As women, our place, just as it is for men, is to become holy as our Father in Heaven is Holy. We are to conform ourselves to Christ, to love Him and prefer nothing to Him, no matter whether we are single, mothers, children, or religious. Our vocations differ, but our value is clear in God's eyes and in the Church.

We don't need our femininity affirmed through definitions of exterior things, but only through being who we are called to be by the God who brought us into being out of His own love.

I am no one special in the service of the Church, and I practice my faith quietly in my own parish, attending Mass, praying in the chapel, and getting involved in other ways as I am able. In my work in the parish I am known only by my employment there, and in the same way, live out my faith in exactly the same ways if in a position of leadership.

When I go to a Catholic Church, I find the respect towards me as a person that the rest of the world ignores. I am seen for who I am, not for what role some agenda wants me to fulfill. I am encouraged to be who GOD has called me to be, and live that out according to HIS call, not my own selfish desires.

When I walk into a Catholic Church, it is a sanctuary, a haven from the rest of the world, and more real than anything in the rest of my life. When I am in my pew, appearing to be alone at Mass, I am at that moment more fulfilled that I have ever been before, for it is there that I lose my individual identity to become joined with the Church, past, present, and future. It is there that in losing myself, I gain the world and am taught to become ever more who I am, to be authentically myself in this ongoing battle in the world that wants to put me in a box and define me according to its restrictive "feminist" definitions.

It doesn't matter what I have done in the past, for in being Catholic, all that we are, all that we have, all that we will ever be comes to fruition in the Kingdom of God. I am not a Saint. I am not an important personage. I am an average Catholic woman seeking holiness and mostly failing, but in that failure, I most learn who I really am and in that, I become more and more authentic, more and more human. It doesn't matter that I'm crusty and shy all at once, or that I'm snarking off one moment and weeping with contrition in the next. It doesn't matter that in some ways I'm strong while I give in to weakness in others, for, as a part of the Church, someone else makes up what I lack so that I can contribute where they cannot.

I am a woman of the Catholic Church. I am not oppressed, but free, and I am PROUD to be Catholic!

What else is there left to say?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Paradigm Shift

The Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis is beginning a Planning Process involving obtaining feedback from parish leaders and all Catholics in the area, as a way to answer some major problems and needs faced by the Church today.

This is all well and good, for clearly we DO have some issues to address for infidelity is rampant in the Cities, and never was it more apparent than in yet another diocesan meeting I had to attend.

This process requires that parish employees first attend a meeting so that our designated leadership (via the Chancery) can explain what is happening and why, and to get our own feedback, give us a chance to speak with others with similar jobs, and in so doing help the archdiocese prepare for the concerns we have especially given what we see every day.

Again, well and good.

Of course, their main goal is NOT to deal with infidelity, although I'm going to be perfectly honest...MY main goal IS!

Recently I attended one of the parish-employee-directed meetings and was seated at a table with several other people from other parishes, some geographically close to mine, some not.

I felt like I was at a Call to Action meeting.

The first person to speak up immediately ranted against the "bad leadership" of priests and in so doing completely ignored the Gospel Mission we are given at Baptism, and compared the Church to a corporation, wanting priests to be more worldly, apparently. Or, instead, to "trust us" (the laity) to lead things for them (the Priests) so that they (Priests) could actually just be a sack of a sacramental machine, much like a Pez Dispenser.

I wanted to ask him if he was a member of Connecticut Voice of the Faithful and whether or not he planned a similar coup that took place in the Bridgeport diocese early this summer. (I didn't. I held my tongue.) I also managed not to point out the obvious canonical problems in his fiery argument, realizing that "pearls before swine" actually applied.

Sadly, this theme of "TRUST US!", I learned, was also taken up by other tables in the room. I will say more on this later.

It Gets Better....

There was a woman sitting near me whom I admit fully that I "profiled" as the feminazi "glass ceiling oppressive Church DIE" rebel common to today's religious education programs. Sure enough, as soon as blustery "make the Church a democracy and trust us" guy said, "let's ordain married men!" she jumped in with the bloodcurdling rallying cry of "ORDAIN WOMEN NOW!"

I seriously almost threw up on the spot. And burst into tears. Both, actually.

Just BEING there was perhaps one of the most spiritually excruciating experiences of my life as I first realized that I needed to retain my resolve to listen and hold my tongue. I wanted to leave so badly I had to hold onto my chair, realizing that for better or worse, God had set me there for a reason and so I prayed to the Holy Spirit with all my might.

The Holy Spirit wasn't very interested in actively talking to me, however, although I realized I could not remain silent.

I could not deny Our Lord in this crowd, and, as they say, "Silence gives consent." I would NOT consent! I could not be silent!

I glanced at one person at my table, a man somewhat near my age and from a very good parish, hoping he would jump in so that I could continue bleeding from my mouth mutely and not have to eject the bloody gory end of my tongue before speaking. He must have taken a vow, too, though, because he didn't say anything.

Yes, I spoke up.

I said firstly that we were addressing the wrong problems; we are CATHOLIC and as Catholics, we are NOT called to be bureaucrats! We are called to be FAITHFUL! I said that we can't hold priests responsible for the drop in numbers of Catholics fleeing to Evangelical communities, for WE are at fault!

People aren't leaving because of priests who are not businessmen...they are leaving because WE THE FAITHFUL HAVE *NOT* BEEN FAITHFUL!

I pointed out that all we need to do to see success is look to those parishes that have proven themselves to be "Vocations Factories". We need to look at what they are doing (which ALWAYS has to do with FIDELITY to the teachings of the Church), and we need to imitate it in our own parishes.

I said that if we don't put Christ first and foremost, if we don't practice prayer and fidelity, then every single program or process we institute will fail just as it has for the last 40 years.

We've lost sight of who we are, and if we don't do what we are called to do by Baptism, then we are going to be responsible for a lot of lost souls.

That's a Fact.

I keep hearing the term "Paradigm Shift"

...and every time I hear it I cringe because it's one of those hokey buzzwards dissidents love to use, but I suspect their reign is coming to an end.

In fact, I KNOW it is because in the entire 2000+ years of Catholic history, dissidents have been trying to destroy the Church from within...and no matter how many victims they spiritually and physically murder, they are denounced, they are cast out, and their ideologies FAIL.

Yes, there is a "Paradigm Shift" taking place, and it ain't goin' where the VOTF/ CTA people would like it to go.

paradigm shift, noun
Definition: a fundamental change in approach or assumptions

Yup. That's what's going on.

As an employee in this archdiocese, let me explain to you the dominating paradigm in religious education:

Eucharist is a "banquet" and we are called to the "table", there is no hope for vocations because no one wants to be a priest unless he can have lots of sex but never mind the kids, women are not choosing religious life because they can be paid better to be social workers and work in our parish programs and secular non-profits that partner with us while we enforce acceptance of homosexual behavior, contraception, and "reproductive rights" in alignment with the current political regime. Being Catholic is about "doing stuff" so anyone who is not involve must GET INVOLVED so we should start a "CatholicCorps" to make sure everyone has busy hands, but never mind the kneelers, we'll have CatholicCorps remove them as soon as possible because the old paradigm has passed away. And if we don't cave in to the culture, then everyone will go to the Evangelical communities and we're losing them because priests aren't good business administrators and so it's their fault people leave. Priests suck. Sin is social and the hierarchy is the worst offender and we hate them.

Let me please be the first to give you the paradigm that drives the Springtime of Evangelization:

1. FIDELITY! People want a faith they can DIE for, and in our watered-down wimpy programs that deny our beliefs, we are nothing more than protestants. In all honesty, though, give me a faithful Protestant any day over a dissenting "Catholic", because a good Protestant is faithful to what their religion believes and many have encouraged me to be obedient to what the Church teaches! A dissenting "Catholic", on the other hand, is heading towards the dam in a canoe without a paddle and they're oblivious to the oncoming tragedy. Dying in the dam isn't noble, it's stupid.

2. HOLINESS! Our holiness comes from the SACRIFICE of Christ, the Son of God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, spouse of our representative the Blessed Mother, our model in how to imitate Christ. We need the Sacraments, we need to recognize that Holy Communion (The Eucharist) is truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

If people are leaving the Church for some protestant mega-church with a good band and a charismatic preacher, then WE HAVE FAILED in instilling the importance of the central importance of our Faith!

3. TRUTH! People don't leave Truth. They flee lies. They only flee Truth to the degree that it's uncomfortable and demands something of them, but in that fleeing, they reconigze the Hound of Heaven and they come back in humility and joy, realizing what they've lost by running away. Those who go away and stay away have NEVER been introduce to Truth, for if they had possessed it, they would have retained it.

Like it or not, although dissent is pervasive, and the socialist ideology that rules our Nation also currently rules our local diocese, a paradigm shift is coming, and it's codeword is FIDELITY!

There's so much more to say...add your own below in the combox.

But I do have more to add on this.


I blame, we, the Faithful, for letting it happen.

If we had paid attention more to our own spiritual formation, we would not have led others astray, even unwittingly.

If we would properly order our priorities, we could spend more time in prayer, we could attend Mass more often, we could offer our sacrifices for the Church more faithfully and more efficaciously.

If we would immediately reject those writers and "theologians" who, with the scent of sulpher on their breath and in their "scholarship" ask us to "bend the rules" and find a loophole around Catholic Moral Teaching, or outright despise it, we could stomp dissent into the dust even more permanently than the heretics (Arians) stomped Bishops like the Martyr St. Flavian into the dirt for his valiant defense of the Nicene Creed spoken by several Christian religions today!

(They didn't win then and they won't win now!)

To Parents

Yes, I'm ranting at YOU now because I see it every day: YOU are the primary teachers of your children!

You have NO RIGHT to complain about the state of the Church today if ANY of the following describes you:

1. Sunday Mass and any other Mass is optional because we've decided other things are more important or convenient to our family

2. Dropping kids off at school or parish religious ed is sufficient for their spiritual formation.

3. We don't talk about religion and spirituality at home

4. Bashing religious beliefs of anyone is one of our favorite topics of conversationn. Anyone who professes to love Jesus and talk about Him freely is fodder for our between-events diatribes on what's wrong with this country.

5. Complaining about Church teaching and denigrating being Catholic as we drive to Mass or to religious ed. or Catholic School is one of my family's traditions.

6. I'm too busy to be involved with my child's religious formation. That's why I pay strangers I don't know to present a curriculum I haven't investigated to do once per week for some of the year.

7. Why should I attend a parent meeting? My family is occupied by dance lessons and sports. I don't have time.

8. If the Church would ordain women I'd be faithful, but until then I'm going to cling bitterly to my grey hair and peace signs and failing memories of Woodstock because without those things, I am nothing.

If any of the above, or similar, belong to your thought process, then you have NO RIGHT to complain when your children leave the Church, or have bitterness about it, or what have you. In fact, you don't even know what's going on because you haven't followed your own Baptismal OBLIGATION to learn your Faith, so how DARE you hold anyone else responsible for YOUR OWN FAILURE????!!!!


At the meeting I attended, I heard a LOT from people about "trusting the laity".

Actually, Priests DO trust the laity; if YOU personally don't happen to be ONE of them, then try the process of interior conversion and try actually being FAITHFUL to the teachings of the Church. Get your agenda out of the way. The parishes that are tanking aren't doing so because of the Pastor, but IN SPITE of him.

(If random guys in a diocesan meeting can spout off an attack against priests without numerical suppor, so can I defend them in the same way....the burden of proof is on the one who brought the negative charge. Legal fact.)

But you know what? Let's talk about "trust". Yes.

If I were a Priest being ordained today, I'd be very careful about how I toss that word "trust" around. I'd get to know any lay person who professed to want to "lead" the Church, seeking the motives of that person, seeking the experience, and above all, examining that person's fidelity and obedience to the teachings of Holy Mother Church.

And that's exactly what they're (recently ordained priests) are doing. They've had good formation.

They need help, though. I agree. Priests can't do it all. But as someone who actually fell away from the Faith because of people I was supposed to TRUST who fed me infidelity, lies, and pagan practices wrapped up as acceptable Catholic teaching....

Let's just say that if I was on a seminarian's committee, I'd tell him not to trust ANYONE at the parish to which he was assigned until he had gotten to know them and their agendas. We all have agendas. If you say you don''re lying. And they know it, too. They're Priests...not idiots.

I heard a lot about "trust" in our local meeting, and I can tell you that I wouldn't trust the soul of my DOG to the people asking our clergy to trust them, much less the souls of an entire parish. I certainly wouldn't hand over MY bank account and finances to anyone who didn't understand my faith in God and how He cares for His own.

Then again, maybe that reveals a lot...those who want the keys to the parish might NOT be one of God's own, but only posers. (Just sayin' be the judge of your own souls.)

I seriously doubt any priests local to me actually read my blog, which is just as well, but I DO know that many local lay Catholics do. So I would ask this of all of my faithful local readers:


There are several "townhall" meetings which are going to be held in coming months.

GO to them, make your voices heard, write letters, leave voice mails! The Archbishop is going to get an earful of a LOT of things, but what he REALLY needs to hear is the voice of the TRULY faithful; those who love the Church, who know the meaning of fidelity, who love and trust their PRIESTS but not the lay leadership.(The biggest problem in fidelity comes from lay leadership! As an insider, I am an island of orthodoxy in a hurricane of dissent and disobedience!). I will say this: TRUST ARCHBISHOP NIENSTEDT and go directly to him with your concerns especially regarding fidelity! Be charitable, write to him as you would a beloved brother who shares your beliefs...for he does!

But do not trust your local parish staff. Speaking as one...don't even trust me. I might accidentally misrepresent you. But if you know me personally, then feel free to email me your concerns or questions and I would be happy to include them in with my own voice.

Keep an eye on the website discussing the Planning Meetings, and if you can make it...GO! Bring your friends! Show your faith and make your voice heard!

My friends, I'm really not an activist. It's actually HARD for me to speak up in person, although I keep finding that I HAVE to. I've done it twice now in the last year at major diocesan events.

I'm not a debator. Some, or many of you...are. I'm going to go to the meetings, but please, someone go into this battle and speak up for the Faithful. Do so respectfully, do so intelligently, and let the Archbishop know that he is not alone in an island of the dissent about to be presented to him.



Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mary and the Apostles

This morning while praying the rosary on the way to work, I was considering the relationship of Mary to the Apostles. When she stood at the foot of the cross, Jesus said to John, “There is your mother.” And to Mary, “there is your son.’

This passage has a depth of meaning I’m only beginning to understand. While we all know that in this, Jesus gave Mary not only to John, but to John as a representative of Himself [Jesus], and thus, making Mary the Mother of the Church. Here, though, I want to explore a little of the historicity and the spiritual depths relating to that which prior to this, I had not realized.

A little historical context

There was a very practical dimension to Jesus giving his Mother to John and John to His Mother; as Mary had no other children to care for her, and Joseph, tradition holds, had died, she would have been alone in the world. In that time and place, widows weren't exactly esteemed, and if they didn't have family, well...there's a reason the early Christians took an especial interest in widows and children.

God has a long long history of caring for the lowly; as Jesus taught, “the last shall be first.” In giving her to John, and John to her, He ensured that both would be cared for.

I realized that meant that, along with the other women who had followed the long tradition in the culture at that time of caring for their teachers, so Mary continued to care not only for John, and for the Apostles, she probably received in her motherly way any followers of Christ, her Son. Yet, by extension, while she walked the earth John and the Apostles would have had a special relationship with the Mother of the Lord. In realizing who HE was, they would have had a reverence for her probably not given to any other woman.

Although it's a topic for a different post, most people don't realize that true feminism was born out of the Judeo-Christian traditions that become plainly apparent in an honest reading of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. The Apostles, having been three years in the company of Our Lord, having had exposure to His respect for women and His treatment of their history (for Jesus was, in fact, a Jew), would have recognized in Mary the preparation given to them through their ancient scriptures and the stories of Sarah and Hagar, Hannah, Judith, and Esther (among others!).

Knowing this led me into a greater consideration of the motherhood of priests. Mary's care for and concern for the Apostles and their reciprocating care for her is what I consider as a model for us all to follow. It is well known that Mary has a special relationship with Priests, a dimension that cannot belong to the laity. Each and every Priest, as he represents the priesthood of Christ, standing in His persona, is also a son of Mary in a way that extends beyond the depths of our own relationship with God as adopted sons and daughters.

This also made me reflect upon the relationship with Mary that belongs specifically to religious sisters. They are called as we all are, to imitate Christ. But in a special way, they are also called to imitate Mary as their perfect model, secondary to Our Lord.

Many Sisters I know have also sensed a calling within their vocation to especially apply their role as spiritual mothers to Priests. When I consider Mary and the Apostles, I can’t see how religious life could possibly NOT be also a Call to the spiritual motherhood of priests!

It’s historical. It’s traditional.

In the words of St. Thomas Aquinas and good philosophy, it's fitting!

Although I haven’t studied it in depth, I do know that throughout the history of the Church there has been some animosity between the priesthood and religious sisters. The early Dominican friars didn’t want to take time from preaching publicly to the need for spiritually caring for the cloistered contemplatives. As a result, Dominic and his successors found it necessary to intervene to explain that were it not for this powerhouse of praying women, their preaching ministry would not survive. In our very century, I know of Sisters who were badly treated by pompous priests who had no respect for them and treated them as indentured servants or worse.

Today, though, I can’t think of a single young (ie under 50) faithful religious Sister who has had an experience such as that, for things have changed in this regard, much for the better. In fact, the priests I know obviously have a great deal or respect and high regard for the religious sisters with whom they have contact, and vice versa. I realize that this relationship is one probably very much like that of Mary and the other women who cared for the Apostles through prayer and other types of material support that made it possible to evangelize the world. In turn, I see how priests seem always ready to also care for the needs of the various religious communities within their sphere of influence.

I will continue to ponder this for I have not yet plumbed the great depths of the Gospels, nor of the spiritualiy of Our Blessed Mother who has so much to show us. This semester I am taking a course in the history and doctrine of Mary and hope that my studies will, as she always does, bring me ever closer to Jesus. If there is anything I can do to bring you along with me, I will do so.

Please pray for Priests and women religious as the mirror of Mary and the Apostles so that we might all recognize in this mirror the reflection and importance of this spiritual reality to the entire Church.

Author's Note:
*There is a great deal more to the animosity and bad feelings of some religious sisters and priests than I have written and I do NOT intend this paragraph to be complete, nor is it completely accurate. As it's not the point of my post, please refrain from any combox diatribes, although I would welcome links to respectful and faithful scholarly articles fairly describing this reality.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

PSA on Inattentive Driving

I don't normally do PSA's, but sometimes I find that they are important. Today I watched a video that comes to us from the UK out of an effort to educate teens as to the effect of texting while driving.

It wasn't very long ago that here in Minnesota a teen caused a fatal accident because...she was texting while driving in rush hour traffic, no less.

Having worked nearly five years in insurance claims, I also saw my share of the aftermath of serious and fatal accidents, the vast majority of which were caused by driver inattention (which leads to speeding, crossing medians, running lights and stop signs, etc.). And yes, it CAN happen to YOU.

So it is that I think that this video is worth sharing with all of my readers. Before you watch it, make sure you are seated, not eating or drinking anything and make sure there are no small children in the area. This is a very GRAPHIC and violent video so watch at your own risk.

Again, and I can't stress this enough: watch this at your own risk! It is very graphic.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Prayers for Fr. Ed. Houghton - RIP

From The hermeneutic of continuity: Fr Edward Houghton RIP: "From the Vicar General of Westminster Diocese:

It is with a profound sense of shock and sadness that we announce that Fr Ed Houghton was fatally injured in a road accident in North Yorkshire yesterday, Friday 21 August. He was forty years of age and had been a priest for just over one year. May he rest in peace. Our thoughts and prayers are with Fr Ed's immediate family - his sisters and brother, at this time. We remember also the parish communities at Chiswick where he was Assistant Priest, and the Cathedral where he served his year as a Deacon.

Fr Ed was born in Preston and prior to studying for the priesthood worked as an English and Religious Education teacher at St Charles Sixth Form College in Ladbroke Grove. He had been a resident at Newman House when he was a student. Our prayers are with his family and all who mourn him. May he rest in peace."

Please keep Fr. Houghton in your prayers, as well as his family and all those who loved him.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.
And may perpetual light shine upon him.
May the souls of the faithfully departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.


The Starving Children of God

Consider: how many times have you perhaps been, say, complaining about a particular liturgical abuse at your parish or one you visited, or perhaps about the music? Perhaps you are speaking to a friend or acquaintance and that person clearly doesn't like what you're saying, so pipes up with, "Well, at least we CAN go to mass! There are people all over the world that can't go to Mass at all!"

Certainly they have a point, and none of us disagrees that this is the case.

HOWEVER, it's an illogical response to the problems at hand. The comment to redirect one to the liturgical equivalent of "the starving children in Africa" is designed to shut down the complaints.

Granted, sometimes we do need to pipe down and air our greviances to the appropriate party, that being the Pastor or perhaps the Bishop if the Pastor has not responded.

Let's break this down a little, though, in order to explain why we should not be cowed by someone who doesn't like our rant against their favorite "liturgical" music composers, or liturgical dancing or creative Eucharistic prayers. There are a few things we all need to understand, just for a foundation:

1. The Liturgy does not belong to the presiding priest, it does not belong to us as individuals and it does not belong to the individual parish.

A parish is NOT a "closed community" of worshippers in a single place and time. The Mass belongs to the Church as a whole, during which the original sacrifice of Calvary is made present, inserted into OUR place and time, no matter where we are when it is celebrated. It is fully universal, and each movement or prayer that takes place in the Mass has meaning. Everything is designed to bring us more fully into the Paschal Mystery.

If, for example, we are focused on an amazing soloist in the choir, no matter how holy the song, if our attention isn't directed to God but rather to that person, then it is not effective and shouldn't take place during the Mass.

Any time we are directed to human accomplishment, we take our attention from God who should be front and center since He is condescending to make Himself present among us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

We do not go to Mass to be entertained; we go to experience Heaven.

2. The Faithful have a Canonical Right to a properly celebrated Mass.

Canon 214 states: The Christian faithful have the right to worship God according to the prescripts of their own rite approved by the legitimate pastors of the Church [this does not mean individual parish Pastors, but magisterial leadership] and to follow their own form of spiritual life so long as it is consonant with the doctrine of the Church. [i.e. legitimate spiritual life is CATHOLIC spiritual life, which means you can't replace scripture readings with verses from the Koran or poetry from Robert Frost, etc.]

Under the Code of Canon Law, NO ONE has the right to tweak the Mass such that they leave the rubrics behind. Each and every movent in the liturgy has significant meaning, and the fact that we may not understand that meaning does not render that part of the Mass insignificant; rather it means we have a moral obligation to seek out that which we do not understand. Eliminating it or trashing it in some way is an outright offense to God and to the rest of the Church.

3. The Hymns chosen for Mass are important

Our professor made an interesting point this weekend, one I've heard before but it bears repeating:

When people leave Mass, are they most often meditating on things stated in the homily or in the readings, or are they singing one of the songs used during Mass?

Music is powerful and it catches our attention and imagination. The heretics in the early Church, and even since that time, realized this and have long used hymns to spread their heresies. In fact, the Arians were the first to do this but they were far from the last.

When we consider the music done in a Catholic Mass, we must also consider the words being used, for they are important and they are powerful. What we sing we are more likely to internalize, and at Mass, it is actually a prayer.

Lex orandi, lex credendi: We believe as we pray. If we are praying something that is NOT Catholic teaching, we become indoctrinated into something false.

This falsity removes us from the Paschal Mystery and keeps us from experiencing it as deeply as we could if we were actually being presented with and given the opportunity to receive the proper theology.

In charity and truth, we MUST, therefore, protest the use of music that is not true and does not contribute to the proper prayers of the Mass.

4. The "starving children" logical fallacy

The fact that people in some other parts of the world aren't given the great gift of Mass (oppressive regimes, plagues, priest shortages caused by the former, etc.) should not be taken to mean that we should be subjected to illicit (and even invalid!) liturgical practices.

Because children are starving in the Sudan, does that mean we should put bugs in our food here so that we can get dysentary, too?

Or would not the good people in those countries want we who are privileged to REALIZE our privilege, celebrate it, and in so doing, be able to assist them more completely?

The reality is that BECAUSE the Mass, in all times and all places, all church buildings, belongs to the Church, past, present, and future, if it is improperly celebrated it DEPRIVES the ENTIRE CHURCH of graces that are owed.

When we attend Mass, we do so on behalf of those who are unable. When we pray the petetions, we, in a sense, lose our own personal identities and desires so that we can take on that of the Church, representing especially those who cannot be present among us physically. That might include a neighbor who is sick, a medical professional who has been on call and can't attend due to an emergency at the hospital, or an entire village somewhere in India whose priest was murdered and they, sent into exile. We attend Mass and we receive the sacraments on their behalf, that they might receive the same graces to which they have a right but within which they cannot directly participate for a time. Because they are part of the Church, even though they are on the other side of the world, they are still part of us.

If we are distracted at Mass because the priest is making up words of the consecration and we must wonder if the validity of the Sacrament has been affected...we are being deprived of Grace. If we are unable to pray the mass because someone is up on the altar changing the words of the prayers in a way that is "gimmicky" (i.e. "inclusive language", non-approved wording, etc.), then we are being deprived of Grace.

How are we being deprived?

When we go to Mass, we should be able to expect to fully participate, which means we can interiorly unite ourselves as a Body as we pray together in our praise and worship of God. We can place ourselves and our concerns upon the altar so that the priest can "lift them up" during the Holy Sacrifice.

But when we are distracted and confused by bad hymns with non-Catholic or completely contradictory theology, or "prayers" that depart from the canon, or unapproved scriptural translations that change the original meaning of the words, we may forget what we are there to do. We have been cut off, in a way, from the Church for what is being celebrated in that place and time no longer has unity with the rest of the Church.

And in that, the efficaciousness of our prayers may be lost for in fact, we can no longer properly participate. In the case where the congregation may not be aware that what is happening is wrong, they are also cut off, through no intent of their own, for they are being deprived of the full meaning of the Paschal Mystery which they will NEVER truly be able to grasp if it is not presented properly.

We see this effect in those parishes that especially suffer the worst of liturgical abuses, for they don't even realize they are eating from a liturgical garbage dump and so don't understand the real meaning of "unity" in the Church.

We can look around us and see what bears this out and what bears fruit in the spiritual and sacramental life of the Church.

In my observation, the "starving children" in America are those most likely to make the "starving children" logical fallacy, for they are often either refugees from the liturgal garbage dumps who have not been offered an explanation of the fullness of the Liturgy, or they are those who still attend a Mass or have been indoctrinated by music that does more to celebrate "us" than it does to direct our worship to God. (This latter, I think, is the most common scenario. Good Catholics with good intentions but bad formation through no fault of their own.)

Thankfully, our dear Pope Benedict XVI has recognized all the starving children in America and in his mercy, has issued Summorum Pontificum (July 7, 2007), and the USCCB has revised the translation of the Mass to make it more faithful to the actual wording.


Now, while it is a logical fallacy to try to shut down legitimate complaints by pointing out what others DON'T have, we do need to recognize the great gift of the Mass. We need to recognize what we have and while we work to reform those things that are wrong and which close off a parish from the universal Church, we may need to still attend those Masses...on behalf of all those who cannot.

Holiness and worship doesn't consist in "either/or" but in the true Catholic way, "both/and". YES there are some major problems in liturgy right now, AND we need to recognize them AND while we work for improvement, attend Mass as often as possible to pray for the suffering Church that is deprived of the Sacraments.

That, my friends, is what we the faithful are called to do, and THAT, while it is going to be slow going, is how we are called to suffer in our place and time.

The FIRST thing we need to do, though, is educate ourselves. We need to understand what the Mass is all about, what the Church officially teaches about it, and only then can we really serve others, whether here or abroad.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Liturgy and Longing for God

I'm going to start with the easy thing: longing for God.

In Moral Theology this weekend, much stood out to me and perhaps it will become fodder for future posts, but there are a couple things that are short and to the point:

There are two ways of contemplating God, and perhaps I'll write more of this later, too. However, suffice to say that we can only contemplate Him "naturally" up to a certain point. Because it does not belong to our human nature as it is to know God and see Him face to face, we are content to know that He exists, but that's pretty much were it ends. We may love Him, but in our natural contemplation we cannot desire that which is not proper to our state.

If we find ourselves longing for God, however, for union with Him, a desire to be with Him, a love that surpasses all other love...that is a supernatural grace. It does not belong to our nature but transcends it in order to help us to reach our intended end, that being...eternal union with God. much there. I hope to write more on that when I've had time to learn about it and contemplate it...and Him...more deeply.

On Liturgy:

There will probably be much to come on this. We are not reading about what "other people said" about the liturgy, but are reading authoritative Church documents themselves.

Liturgy can be a challenging discussion because there is a LOT of misinformation out there, all across the spectrum, and as it's a charged arena, a lot of self-proclaimed "experts" are spouting off a lot of things.

Guess I'll be one of them. Except that...I'm not an expert. And can't claim to be, even after this class is done.

But I WILL know a heck of a lot more, will be able to recommend solid information (i.e. magisterial documents), and as our professor explained, will have some information on the changes coming our way in the Liturgy. He pointed out that we in that classroom are likely to be on the "front lines" and will be the ones explaining to a lot of angry people the reasons for the changes being made and their implementation.

Well, not in my current job that wouldn't be my responsibility, however, given I have this blog, if I still have it by then, well, perhaps I will need to be one of the voices speaking up.

Our professor believes it will be implemented sometime in 2012. Change is slow, but he is happy to note what the USCCB is doing to prepare the faithful through their website.

There may be more to come in another post yet tonight as several things are rushing around my brain right now and I'll feel better if I write them down.


Friday, August 21, 2009

It Has Begun...

...and God willing, next June 5th I'll be graduating with my Master's in Theological Studies. We begin our third and final year of a program which, when I began it, wasn't even sure I planned to remain.

Tonight we began fall semester with Moral Theology, and what an incredible class!

Unfortunately, I can already tell how this is going to make me even more culpable for my sins, I've already felt the weight of them all upon me and hope I can make it to Confession tomorrow afternoon on our class break.

I will probably have more to say about content of this course and the others (Liturgy & Sacraments and Mariology) over the next few months. Again, God willing.

But for now, I'm tired, 5 am comes ridiculously early, and I'm going to bed.

God, it's your world. You handle it. I need sleep.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Partisan Paranoid Protester

1. I am not partisan.

I can't be "partisan", for I claim no allegiance to any political ideology.

I vote with the issues and happen to find that currently, the Democratic Party LEAST represents me, or, at best, it MISREPRESENTS what I believe while working hard to convince me and other people who are more gullible that they actually follow Catholic teaching on Social Justice., they don't. They INCORPORATE some portions of Catholic Social teaching, but any idiot can do that by accident. Unfortunately in the case of our government, a LOT of idiots are actively working to deceive the people in this country and I refuse to be one of their Stepford Wives.

2. I am not paranoid

It is NOT "paranoid" to recognize that our own Government is trying to force something upon the American people, and in so doing, outright condemns and works hard to quash legitimate protest.

Can protests get out of hand? Certainly!

But since when is it proper for proud liberals to protest their pet projects (immigration, the war), while proud conservatives (pro-life, health care "reform" requiring tax-payer funded abortion "rights") are publicly villified, arrested, and denounced for exercising their same rights in the same way? Both have peaceful protests protected by our Constitution.

Personally, I find many protesters to be inane, tiresome, aggravating and often idiotic (no matter WHAT their belief.)

I ALSO am grateful to live in a country where we CAN have those protests, I am happy those protesters remind our government that we are a more-or-less Democratic country...especially when one agrees with the reigning regime.

Oh, wait!

...does anyone see anything wrong with my last sentence?

In this, I blame the media even more than I blame our government because...our government got their power through the media. And keeps it.

It's not "paranoia" to be upset that you really DO recognize unfairness in how legitimate concerns are being addressed.

And it's not "paranoia" to draw very clear parallels between what's happening now to what happened in the past in other countries with far more history and suffering...and wisdom...and who STILL voted in evil dictators such as Hitler and Stalin.

You may disagree, but you don't have the right to trample on the reality of history or what people of those countries have faced...and are watching happen in America now.

The Arrogance of American politics will be our destruction unless we are willing to face history!

It's not a matter of political's a matter of knowing history and recognizing TRUTH.

I'm not paranoid because I'm expressing an opinion that goes against the current flow. It means I actually have a brain and am engaging it rather than swallowing without question the current mantra of 'HEALTH CARE REFORM!" I'm not seeing how this is any kind of a "reform" at all.


Yes, I'm protesting. That part is correct.

I have been AMAZED at the vitriol and outright, hostile accusations made against people who have been speaking out against the "Health Care Reform" being shoved down America's collective throat.

I've been called all sorts of things, even in my minimal commentary on social networking. I've been villified and blocked by people who responded to an innocuous "RT" (retweet) on Twitter, people who CLAIM to be good Catholics. I've been accused of being PARTISAN but I wonder where anyone saw that I claimed allegiance to ANY party?

No. I respond to what is in front of me. I refuse to sell my soul to something of the world that can be voted out. My interest is in eternity, and in that interest, I want our government to be interested in Truth, which truly benefits us all.

Let me tell you the truth...

I grew up on welfare, so as a child, we received Medical Assistance. (MA). I think they covered everything we needed, actually, but if they didn't, I didn't hear about it or didn't understand.

When I was in college, I no longer qualified under Mom's MA coverage. I found that I MIGHT qualify for MinnesotaCare, and so I went to speak with a really condescending social worker in Steele County, and went through the humiliation of what they call a "spend down". It was a term I'd often heard Mom use growing up, but until I was there, myself, I hadn't the foggiest idea of what it meant.

I had to go through hours of this analysis, as a solid COLLEGE STUDENT, because we were homeless, Mom was in the hospital and on MA, and as a student, I wasn't making any money. As it was, there were two possible options for me. I could go through one plan that would cost me $6.00 per month, or I would be on MA.

Sure! I could afford that! $6.00! A ridiculously cheap amount! I WASTED more than that each week! And I liked the idea of contributing, after many years of being on welfare. I knew it was cheap because I'd researched the cost of health insurance for an independent college student.

But no...the State decided that $6.00 per month for me was too much, and that's why I had to go through the humiliating "Spend down". And it was made even MORE humiliating by the obvious condescending attitude of the social worker who assumed that because I was from a welfare family and lifestyle, I'd be on her desk forever.

And this is exactly the kind of person throwing their lot in with Obamacare and the "Reform".

So it was that I actually chose not to attend my next "spend down" and spent my college years without health insurance. I found the system ridiculous, illogical, and I refused to be a dead weight on society when it was clear that I could pay SOMETHING into my own medical care, even if it was minimal. I refused to endorse the system with my participation in a dehumanizing acquiescence given my own viability of being a productive member of society.

After all, if the outcome for one who went through the "spendown" every so many months was the same as someone who was introduced to the system through an emergency and humiliated there instead, I figured I'd wait and deal with the probem if it was needed instead of subjecting myself to it without need.

It was clear I wasn't wanted and I wasn't human...why put myself into that position? (And dare I say it? That attitude is probably why I never sought treatment and almost died in 1996 when I woke up unable to breathe. I'd rather die than be so dehumanized ever again. What's the difference?)

Since then I've been paying taxes into things for which I will never reap benefits. (Social Security, anyone?) Maybe that is Just. Maybe I'm just paying pack what I took from our country while growing up. Let's call it even now. I've more than paid back what I owed.

Now, leave me alone. And if you want to kill your infants, do it on your own dime. I want no part of that and refuse to pay it.

It's not paranoid to protest against rampant murder. Ask anyone in Nazi Germany or Stalin's Russia. Or current day India.

Let's be honest

The "health care crisis" in this country has everything to do with politics and nothing to do with reality.

I've seen many uninsured people go into the hospital and receive excellent care, for the people actually doing the work of caring are very good at it. They go into the medical field because they actually *gasp* want to HELP people!

My Dad was one of the people whose life was saved by this "awful health care system". He didn't have a job. Mom brought him to the hospital. They were long divorced but she was concerned about a physical problem he was having. He didn't want to go. As it was, he had dead bone removed from his foot in an emergency surgery which saved him from death by septic shock, and he spent a few months in a local nursing home.

I'm not sure who paid the bill, but no one told him "no".

Medical Debt isn't real debt

When I worked as a claims investigator, as a matter of course, we gathered financial records and credit reports. I learned quickly that medical debt meant NOTHING.

No one burned their car or arranged for their truck to be "stolen" in order to pay off medical debt. Even though it showed on a credit report that they had thousands in "collections", no one was pursuing them on those bills.

My manager told me early on to ignore medical debt in my assesments of potential fraud. Over time, I saw why: nearly EVERYONE had some kind of medical debt in collections. And their claim weren't fraudulent.

If they were, it was for a financial reason OTHER THAN past medical problems.

Now, don't use this to go out and get that plastic surgery you've always wanted. These people probably had medical emergencies and problems they couldn't control. Could happen to any of us.

At that time, I had good insurance and everything I needed was covered but for the copay.

Now, though, as I work for the Church, our insurance is outright crap, we have no choice, and quite honestly, I've avoided going to the doctor for over a year or so because I can't afford the bills that will come.

For you see, I have this reason of integrity of wanting to pay my bills if I can. I will go back to the doctor only if I think I'm dying.

The climate now actually makes medical debt more collectible, and everything...billable.

All we're paying for is administration of the paperwork...not our own care.

So yes, I believe reform is needed.

But not what's being shoved down our throats.

Reform needs RESEARCH. That's not an unreasonable demand to make.

It needs to be taken out of the government's hands and handled in a way that prevents partisan lines.

It needs to recognize the dignity of each and every human being from conception to natural death.

True reform isn't about politics; it's about people.

I see nothing in Obama's "reform" that has anything to do with humanity at all.

I refuse to ever be so dehumanized again as I was under the government system that ruled my health care as a child and a young adult.

You can argue politics all you want. But I lived the reality and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

Thank You!

This afternoon after I paddled home from work (no kidding, the rain is NOT stopping up here in soggy Minnesota!), I took some time to swim out to my mailbox to try to rescue anything that might be there (even bills - *sigh*).

As you might recall, early this summer several people surprised me by opening a "Discernment Fund" on my behalf so that I would be able to travel this summer to various communities (and hopefully not go bankrupt doing so!).

Can you guess what was in my mailbox today?

A check from my very very generous donors, which I'm going to use immediately (well, as soon as I can put it in the bank) to pay the credit card I used to cover my trips and expenses! There will also be a significant amount left over which will allow me future visits as well. There's nothing in stone by any means but I do know that one of the communities I visited this summer has a 40 Hour's Devotion around New Year's. They've invited me in the past and perhaps I will be able to return as that takes place on a break between semesters and a slow time at work.

Unfortunately I can't thank anyone personally as I don't have the info. I believe that several people expressed to the account administrator, Fr. Leo McDowell, that they preferred to remain anonymous, and those wishes are being respected.

So thank you, each and every one of you, for your generosity. Know that while I was on my retreats, and even since then, I have kept you in prayer, asking that God will bless you far more than you (and He of course!) have blessed me! It perhaps doesn't matter that I don't know who you are: God does, and as scripture tells us, you will receive your reward. Of that, I have no doubt!

There are some people who contacted me and expressed that they could not help financially, and I still hold now, even as I did then, that prayer is valuable! Were it not for prayers, none of this would have happened, either. I know many (if not all!) of my readers have been praying for me and I thank you, for as you can clearly see, I have an endless need for prayers!

God Bless You!

Define Irony

A car is parked out in the lot in a torrential downpour, all the windows opened. The interior is completely soaked.

There is an umbrella folded up neatly on the front seat

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Did You Hear The Train Roar?

Today was a cool, rainy day up here in Minnesota. It was in the low 70's and as far as I knew, there was no expectation or prediction of severe weather. The most we were supposed to get were some massive downpours sometime in the late afternoon. OK, fine. I didn't care. We need rain.

So while at work I went online to check the weather and much to my surprise, a headline caught my attention: a tornado had hit MINNEAPOLIS! As it was, although initially they reported the tornadoe hit the city north of downtown, in actuality it was south, headed north, and did a lot of damage to the neighborhood in which I used to live.

And all I could think was, "REALLY????!!! TODAY??? But but but...the conditions just don't make SENSE!"

There was no warning, for even the meterologists were caught off guard.

The suburb of Cottage Grove also had a small area of tornado damage, and as the storm went north-northeastward, I realized that the storm seemed to be headed in the direction of the city in which I worked. (Thankfully it missed my hometown.)


So there I was at work, hearing the weather sirens singing soliloquies to us off and on. What a beautiful serenade of rain and sirens.

I was watching the radar and listening to the live stream reports via my computer, so I knew the sirens were for the county and general area, but not for us. But wait! The storm shifted and then our city was briefly named as being in the path of an area of concern. Uh oh. Even though this violent weather didn't make any sense to me at all, I knew it was serious so realized we might be next to be decimated.

As an aside, my regular readers will remember a post citing my great fear of storms that arose especially after a tornado caught a tree and threw it into our house when I was a child. I've long gotten over that phobia, perhaps too much so. While we were all being told to take cover, what was I doing? Standing by my open office window, watching the sky.


I have to admit, I "felt" something changing in the atmosphere, or the pressure...something. I can't explain it. All I knew is...we were waiting for something.

First the rain slowed, and nearly stopped. There were a couple gusts of wind, each a little stronger than the last, but then even that faded to an eerie quiet.

That was followed by a was wind, from far away, reminding me of the sound of wind reverberating off of rock faces in Sedona. It didn't actually "match" the wind I was "seeing" by the evidence of the trees around the building.

But...was there a note in that wind? I cocked my head, listening, watching the clouds, watching the trees, looking for evidence...of something.

Suddenly the wind slammed into the trees, wringing them in circles, bending them over. The rain hit at the same time, sideways, and through the fog of wind and rain and cloud (?) I could no longer see the entrance to the parking lot. And....there was a roar. I have NEVER heard that sound before but...I have often heard the sound of a train. And that was it.

I slammed the window shut, shouted to my co-workers, "THIS IS IT!"

And I left my little office in the corner, passing my boss who was also closing her window and running after me. The youth minister was leaving her office, also yelling something along the line of "LET'S GO!" and our department secretary was right on her heels. As a department we ran into the hallway and found our designated interior sanctuary.

We'd all seen it. More importantly, we'd all heard it, and independently of one another, for none of us had heard the others yell, we'd fled out offices, simultaneously, seeking a safe refuge.

We've all been through storms there of varying types. But NEVER have we, or have any of us, sensed such an immediate and intense need to FLEE.

More often than not, we're sticking our heads out the window or running to the doors to watch the cool storm.

Not this time. We all seriously thought this was the Big One.

As we stood, briefly in our little hallway, we listened in silence, and I pictured my car being whirled around and slammed into things. I wondered if my car would be waiting for me in my office when we returned to it.

After a few minutes, not hearing breaking glass or anything else, I ventured down the hallway cautiously, approaching the doors.

Nothing was happening outside. It was raining, but that was it. The cars were where we'd left them. So were the big flower pots, minus some of their leaves and blooms.

I pushed through the double doors and stepped outside, while my co-workers (to my surprise, actually) hung back, not even approaching the interior doors. One yelled at me not to get sucked out! (she was only half-serious)

All was well. We returned to our offices. Our secretary said that she's amazed the bushes outside her window still had their leaves...or was even still there.

Our theory is that the area of concern in that storm had gone straight overhead, thus the rotation we witnessed, thus the roar of the train that decided to pass us by in favor of a better stop.

No tornado or even a funnel was reported for the city we were in. But...there were others who witnessed similar things and had the same was a very close call.

I have to admit...for a bit after that, I was shaking.

Guess that fight-or-flight response does that, huh?!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Am a Woman

I hate it when stereotypes are true and I'm living them out. No wonder men hate us and are confused by us.

Guys, I'm sorry. We women can't even figure each other out. So don't feel bad because you don't understand. Now I know why I love the guys in my're obvious about everything. (Well, most of you are, anyway.)

Everything below is something I've learned via blogging and my own reactions:

* Sometimes I just want a podium so I can air my greviances and nothing anyone says can change how I feel about a particular subject because I don't WANT to change my view.

* Sometimes I want advice. (usually not, but sometimes I do.)

* Sometimes when it seems I'm asking for advice, I'm really not. I'm just musing and asking rhetorical questions designed for my own meditation and to help my readers ask those same questions of themselves. (I need to get better at closing comments to that post and making my intentions clear.)

* Sometimes I want a debate. (usually not as I'm really not much of a debator. It's not my gift. I think of great responses....hours and days later.)

* Sometimes I just want people to express that they understand what I'm going through because if I'm the only one who feels a certain way, maybe it means I'm going crazy.

* Sometimes I just want to express myself and let that be the end of it. Just writing about things helps.

* Sometimes I want to tick someone off on purpose because I'm in a bad mood and I want to share the anti-joy. ('s obvious I shouldn't do that.)

* Sometimes I need something else and I can't express it so I write about everything BUT what is really bothering me, in hopes I'll figure out what that is. Or maybe I'm just avoiding it because, let's face it: the truth is painful.

* Sometimes I'm just being me, boring, regular ol' me, and in my purest form, I'm quite a fallen soul.

Now that I've admitted all this....

...and probably have more to add (as probably do some of my commenters), I must say that AT NO TIME is ANYONE, especially a man, allowed to cite any of the above in such a way as to shame the women in his life! You are NOT allowed to use this for anything but compassionate purposes, and let's face it do the same thing but with a lot less drama. And we still love you, anyway, don't we?

Oh, I'm shuddering at the comments that might arise from this post.... *cringe*

Keep it clean, y'all!

Participation in the Cross

Our Divine Savior has deposited His richest graces in the cross and He will impart them to us only through our particular participation in His cross and suffering. When Jesus desire to enter our souls and unite us to Himself, he accomplishes it only through the Cross. He permits exterior sufferings to come upon us to detach us from the world, from our conveniences and pleasure, and from all affection for creatures. He visits us with interior trials, to purify our desires and inclinations, to destroy self-love and so complete our unconditional surrender to God. The greater the favors which the Lord wills to confer upon souls, the greater the love with which He prepares them for these favors.

O my Savior, give me a love of the cross that all my sufferings may tend to more intimate union with thee.

~ Taken from Jesus, the Model of Religious Life
Friday 6th week after Pentecost

First Seek the Kingdom of God

This morning I planned to get up around 6 or 6:30 am, and be in to work around 8:30 am and work a nine hour day. You see, yesterday morning, because I was up too late Sunday night, I decided to sleep in, for I do have that freedom in my work schedule.

But this morning, I slept in, too. I just plain didn't want to get up. I tried sitting up a couple times, but both times, thought better of it and rested my head on my pillow once again. I looked up at my icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, and a nearby picture of Jesus, wishing I could be with them. Knowing that, if I got up, I could get to Mass if I rushed.

But no...I remained in bed. The second time I sat up and laid down, I began to wonder if, actually...was I depressed? Was this two-day-in a row problem with getting up a symptom of an actual chemical imbalance in my brain? Was I sick? I really had to consider I depressed?

No. I'm not. Just...utterly and completely lazy. I COULD have gotten up. I just didn't want to.

Now, to be fair, once I did finally get up around 8:30 am, I did note some scratchiness in my throat and I have a little cough, so it could very well be that this fatigue is a symptom of an oncoming late summer cold. But...really, I feel fine.

The reality is that, during my "free" time this summer, when I wasn't on my discernment retreats, I got into the habit of staying up very late, knowing that I could sleep in. The irony here is that even THEN I often got up to go to Mass by 8 am...knowing that I could nap later. Now that I'm back to work full time, there is no napping. I need to get up and GO GO GO! School starts this coming weekend, and between the fact I know that both work and classes are going to be overwhelming me once again, well...I'm stressed.

I've long known that when stress enters my life, in many ways, I "shut down" and have to struggle to overcome that. I have to take a step back and objectively look at what's going on, and in so doing, turn each thing over to God.

This morning as I got ready for work, I wished I could just call in. In walking the dog, wanting silence, I didn't have my CD player (I don't own an ipod, can't afford it), so all I could hear was the noise of big trucks backing up, people yelling in the park as they played soccer, motorcycles, trucks, beeping, name it. I live in large suburb but with all the noise around here you'd think I live in Times Square.

On that walk I realized that what I was really craving was...God. I need to go to Confession, I need to go to Mass. I need to RECEIVE Him in Holy Communion. The great irony of working full time, even in a church, is that once I'm on that work schedule I often don't have time to go to Mass. And..I needed true silence. The visit to the monastery has made me crave silence in a way I've never before experienced. Even before I went, I was eliminating noise from my house, but I can't control the noise of the city around me. And unless I stay into close contact with God, I can't maintain that private cloister in my soul where only He and I communicate. The outside world is too loud, and if I "leave", it becomes too boisterous to bear.

I do have to allow a little more honesty to enter into this "conversation", though. There IS one Mass I could get to, 6:30 am. There are many reasons why I don't go, and there are days that I wouldn't be able to make it and for good reason. But...most days I have no excuse.

I'm not a fan of walking my dog in the dark for most of the year. It sometimes creeps me out. But my biggest problem....I have gotten used to staying up late and so I don't want to get up in the morning. No, I'm not a morning person, but's MASS! People all over the world risk their LIVES to get to Mass and I'm too lazy to deprive myself of a little sleep a simple adjustment in schedule would solve?

But there's more....

There's a deeper reason I don't want to get up in the morning, and it isn't just laziness.

I'm weary from the battle. In all my hobbies and busy-ness and life, I know that God is trying to say something to me. In my last reatreat in silence and solitude, I became more deeply attuned to the presence of God in my life, and I can't escape Him, no matter what I do. He is with me in every moment. He sees everything I do, and even if I don't understand the reasons...He does. I can't escape His compassion, I can't escape His sacrifice. I can't escape His love, which He is showing me all the time, even as I run from Him.

But in my own panic I've been using everything around me in a spiritual "LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" and this can only go on for so long.

I can't get up in the morning because, in doing so, it means I have to face God. I open my eyes, and here He is. The early morning, the first few moments of rising are the most honest of our entire day. If we have any regrets, they crash down right then. If we have any doubts, they crowd in at that very moment when we are at our weakest. If we know we've been running for too long, we realize it then.

It's easier to pull the blanket over my head and close my eyes, feigning sleep as I did when I was a child and didn't want to wake up. It's easier to shut everything out, to delay the morning crush.

I'd rather face myself in the mirror after a rough night of tossing and turning than wake up to that spiritual assult of Truth, day after day.

So, this morning, I realized that it was time to return to simplicity: "First seek the kingdom of God."

I realized that being deprived of the Sacraments (Sunday is NOT enough!) is a problem, for I can't do anything without Him. I realized that I'm weary because I'm trying to shut God out and He will never tire, nor will He ever give up. If I try to keep this up, I'll be decimated, and rightly so.

I considered calling in to work this morning, as, I thought, my boss would be there but I had a few things to discuss with her. So I decided to work a couple hours then come home, spend time in prayer, being honest with myself and with God, and hopefully I'll be able to get to Confession tonight. (the time is limited and if the line is too long, which it often is, I might not be able to go).

I've decided that, with both work and school crushing down on me, I have to put myself on a schedule. It seems that prayer is always the first thing to be tossed, and when that happens, I lose everything.

I'm going to compose a schedule to follow, including regular time for prayer throughout the day. FORMAL prayer. I don't have the Liturgy of the Hours for nothing. I'm going to do my best to get to Mass if it means going at 6:30 am every weekday. Once school starts, I need to dedicate my short evenings to study, and then I need to get to bed. Even during my workday, I know that I can schedule regular prayer most days. I don't consider this to be a "break" but a requirement of the spiritual life and my job, and I know that neither my boss the DRE nor Father bats an eye at the idea of running to the church or chapel for prayer. I'm pretty sure they see it as a necessity, too.

If I can fulfill this schedule, it means less time for blogging and social networking. It means I need to get ahold of myself and dedicate myself to God. If He doesn't come first in EVERY MOMENT then I will be lost forever.

Of that I have no doubt.

For those who wonder why I'm writing this? Both for accountability (putting it in print has meaning!), and, well, take a look at the text in my sidebar:

"To whom do I tell these things? Not to you, my God, but before you I tell them to my own kind, to mankind, or to whatever small part of it may come upon these books of mine. Why do I tell these things? It is that I myself and whoever else reads them may realize from what great depths we must cry unto you. What is closer to your ears than a contrite heart and a life of faith?" ~ St. Augustine


It's no secret to any of my readers that I'm not a Saint. I'm crabby, I get crabbier when I'm frustrated, and I'm a sinner. I tend to lash out instead of hold my tongue, and then, the part you don't see, is how I beat myself up about it. Much of this could be solved if I just spent more time with Him, and less time with myself.

Anyone seeking holiness knows exactly what I mean by that...maybe all of it.

I'm sorry for the offenses that I've caused and ask for your forgiveness. I hope that I can follow this schedule (which I haven't written yet) and ask for you all to pray for me.

Thank you and God bless you.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Welcoming Parishes

Yesterday I wrote about the fact that I do indeed recognize our large Catholic family, and I love it. Even with all the dysfunction, we are a family and as they say, the Church is a hospital for sinners.

Yup. We're all a bunch of hypocrites, and that's why we go to Mass; because we hope that maybe one day we'll become Saints instead of hypocrites.

It always comes up, though, people who want to visit a parish and want to be made to feel "welcome".

This attitude has always mystified me.

As a child we had our home parish, but on vacation, or if going to an event in the city, every Catholic parish we attended was like ours. We knew what to expect. No, we didn't know the people at those parishes, but something about those places made it seem like another home.

I was always very shy and hated being singled out for attention. As an adult, although I'm no longer shy, I STILL hate it when I visit a new place and people get in my face to "welcome" me to their particular corner of the world.

We've all been there; it's the parishes where the hospitality committee has gone wild and people entering the parish are greeted by a phalanx of ushers and extraordinary ministers and other random people.

"Well, Glory be! Welcome! Welcome! Can I get you another handshake or would you like a nuggie, too? Whatever makes you feel at home! WELCOME Come back again!."

If I'm visiting a Catholic parish, I don't need to be "welcomed". It's already home. To me, this kind of effusive greeting is completely overkill.

When I, for example, enter my brother's house, since we don't see each other daily of course there might be hugs and hellos, but it's pretty low key. But I can't remember a single time in my entire life where I went home and found it necessary to receive some kind of effusive welcome to my house.

One of the things I most appreciate about being Catholic (besides the Sacraments, besides knowing I'm a part of the Mystical Body, etc!) is that, no matter where I go, I'm home. And because of this, it is astonishing to me that someone feels the need to jump into my path as I'm trying to prepare myself for the great paschal mystery, interjecting him or herself to "welcome" me to a place I've considered home ever since I was baptized as an infant.

There is nothing that makes me feel LESS welcome than someone welcoming me to my own home. THAT makes me feel like an alien. It makes me focus not on the Mass which is universal, but on the location and the people, and it takes my attention off of God and places it inappropriately.

We don't attend Mass to get to know our brothers and sisters in Christ. There is another time for that, and perhaps if the greeting ritual from hell were moved from the entrance to Mass to the entrance into the community rooms AFTER Mass, it would be a different story.

Yes, I know we live in a culture where people want to be coddled and their every need and desire met no matter where they go. I know we have a culture of entitlement and we are doing damage control for generations of Catholics who don't know the first thing about their faith, and sadly, most don't even seem to care.

I realize that it is, unfortunately NECESSARY in some places to have this army of overenthusiastic greeters (some of whom clearly see it in the same way I do but are doing their duty anyway) because it is this superficiality that keeps people in the Catholic Church. of the biggest reasons cited for those who fall away from the Faith is that they aren't "made to feel welcome".

I HAVE to wonder if a big band greets them every time they go home?

What I love is being able to freely and quietly walk into a Catholic church, having prepared myself for the Mass. Maybe I'm meditating on the gospel, or just plain looking forward to praying morning prayer before Mass beings. I am in "relaxation" mode, the spiritual equivalent of entering my home actively trying to open myself to what God desires..and that can only be done in perfect silence.

Instead, someone has to overzealously "greet" me and "welcome" me into that place, and it is, in fact, a violent ejection from interior prayer and recollection.

This problem isn't going to go away, and I've just resigned myself to it. Because some people in their misunderstanding about what Mass is about need to be coddled, it means I have to die to myself and, as much as I hate it, I have to be willing to be coddled into my own home.

I live for the day that the Mass will be properly understood, that people will place the effusive greetings AFTER the Mass, so that prayer can remain sacred and socialization can remain soclialized.

Is that too much to ask?

Let the flaming begin, just please turn me over when I start burning on one side. Thanks.

NOTE: I've decided to add this caveat, because I know from experience how many people just LOVE being "welcomed" at their parishes and actually CHOOSE their parishes on the basis of this greeting routine. I'm NOT asking you all to agree with me! It's commonly misunderstood in the blogosphere that people have two choices: agree or disagree. I'm not looking for EITHER of those options. This post is a plea for UNDERSTANDING.