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Monday, March 30, 2009

Social Media, Canon Law, and Attacking Clergy

Charity is not a mere suggestion for Catholics (or anyone else for that matter), but for EVERYONE. And to be clear, in this context I'm not speaking in terms of giving stuff to the disenfranchised, but rather, the command to LOVE.  To be charitable towards others. To respect in them the dignity God gave them, and, in the case of the Ordained (Clergy), we are to hold a particular respect for the OFFICE they hold in obeisance to GOD. 

That is not to say we cannot be critical of certain actions, but we must ALWAYS remember in our criticisms to remember charity and to have respect for the office of those people we may be criticizing.  And we must take care in how we go about our criticisms;  perhaps it's best, maybe, to not shred a priest or bishop on a blog or in a newspaper article and instead go directly to the source?   After all...that IS our obligation and right under Canon Law.  

But we do NOT have the right to ridicule those who hold those offices. As an example, a few weeks ago I referred to a certain dissident Priest as "a Tool".  Meaning, "a tool of Satan".  I did it in conversation, and I hold that he's still a "tool" of the group that is using him and his office to advance a dissident agenda.  However, there is a HUGE difference between the latter and the former;  the first was a personal attack that was a judgment upon him. The second addresses an objective action.  I apologize, therefore for my slander, but I won't apologize for addressing the truth of how he and his office is being used for Satanic means. 

It's easy to spout off and we tend to do so in a knee-jerk manner.  It's harder, though, to look at the actual issue and realize that there is a person with real dignity who holds an office to which he was called by God, whether we understand why or not.  And sometimes the person holding that office is a puppet of some lay group. Sometimes maybe he's just not too bright, or maybe was badly formed. It doesn't matter what is the cause of his very public errors; what DOES matter is how we are called to handle those errors, and public slander and libel and the like is NEVER the proper way to go about it.  

A Bishop's Experience With Internet Criticism

Many have already read the interview with Archbishop Chaput who commented on the hate mail he's received ever since he's been connected online.  In his honesty, he ALSO stated that the mail from the left has contained the most profanity, the mail from the right, those people whom one would think would be most supportive of a Bishop of his intestinal fortitude and holiness, has instead been the most vitriolic.  

Here are His Excellency's exact words, (linked above): 

"Some of the worst emails I get are from Catholic conservatives who think I should excommunicate and refuse communion to Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. of Colorado and to former-Sen. [and now Secretary of the Interior] Ken Salazar of Colorado, and why aren’t you doing this? I mean, just awful kind of stuff that they write. Sometimes, I must admit, that when I write back, I’m not as friendly as I should be. But I try not to be mean."

And then, reflecting on the difference between e-mail from liberals and conservatives, he said:

"The left mail I get will use terrible words but be less vitriolic. They use the F-word and things like that, call me names like that. But the right is meaner, but they’re not as foul."


As a blogger, I've noticed the same things. There are certain blogs I won't read anymore because of the way they attack priests and bishops with impunity - or anyone else who happens to share a different view (which in many cases is a legitimate non-heretical opinion from a fellow Catholic in good standing). There are certain blogs I read, but at which I rarely or never comment;  not because of the author, but because of the commenters who claim to be solid Catholics in spite of the hatred and accusation they spew into every corner of cyberspace.

It is not that I haven't been guilty of doing the same thing. I have been, clearly, and for that, I sincerely apologize.

I'm glad Archbishop Chaput has spoken out on this issue, and I hope his words are taken to heart by the very people who most need to hear that message, but somehow, I doubt it. It seems like those who do the most damage to the Mystical Body of Christ don't take hints very well and apply the barb to everyone else but themselves.

Thus, I'm not expecting that those offensive bloggers, Catholic newspaper columnists from secular and Catholic newspapers alike will change their attitude any time soon.

Maybe it's time to recall, that, especially in the case of our clergy, we as Catholics are OBLIGATED to respect the office of the Priest or Bishop, and obviously, that of the Pope and every other ordained Ecclesial Office.  

Consider the words of Canon 1369

A person who in a public show or speech, in published writing, or in other uses of the instruments of social communication utters blasphemy, gravely injures good morals, expresses insults, or excites hatred or contempt against religion or the Church is to be punished with a just penalty

This is any person. Let's focus on bloggers since this is the proper venue.  Let's also look at other social media such as Twitter or Plurk or other similar venues;  the reality is that what we say and how we say it affects others.  If I am critical of the actions of a Bishop and sarcastically call him to account in a public internet venue, what I'm doing is exciting hatred or contempt in others, whether they are Catholic or not.  And in exciting that hatred or contempt, that would also mean that this would spread to the same effect against religion and the Church. 

I could come up with a LOT of examples of this:  An Actor portraying a role in an anti-Catholic play would fall under this canon. So would a newspaper columnist who spouts off the old-hat inaccuracies and lies about the Crusades and Galileo and the Inquisition. An average Catholic who publicly slanders the Pope in a Letter to the Editor in a local newspaper or diocesan paper.  An average Catholic who twists Church teaching on faith and morals to try to justify their own behavior and writes about it in a publication or calls a conference for that very purpose.  Need I go on?  I could....

What we do and what we say MATTERS to others, whether they are currently Catholic or not. When they look at us, how do we reflect the Church?  If we're running around spewing a bunch of vile insults against certain Priests or Bishops, others look at that and are put off, perhaps affecting their ability to trust in the holiness and the authority of the Church established by Christ. 

We WILL answer for those souls at our Particular Judgment!  If we are the ones who chased someone away from Holy Mother Church, we are placing our very souls in jeopardy.  It is we who have been given so much that have the greater duty to spread the Gospel message with charity and truth.  And it IS possible to be truthful without being vitriolic and rude. Remember what Isaiah said about the Messiah to come:  He would not break a bruised reed or quench a smoking wick.  

THAT'S our example to follow. 

Personally...I'm cringing. I KNOW I've acted contrary to this Canon.  How 'bout YOU? 

But wait!  There's MORE! 

According to Can. 1371:  

The following are to be punished with a just penalty: 

section 1:  in addition to the case mentioned in can 1364.1* a person who teaches a doctrine condemned by the Roman Pontiff or an ecumenical council or who obstinately rejects the doctrine mentioned in can. 750.2** or in can. 752*** and who does not retract after having been admonished by the Apostolic See or an ordinary

section 2: a person who otherwise does not obey a legitimate precept or prohibition of the Apostolic See, an ordinary, or a superior and who persists in disobedience after a warning

(See below for Canons marked with *, **, or ***) 

We've had a recent example of this in the news out of the Diocese of Madison; a woman was dismissed by the Bishop because of her refusal to recant her thesis.  As you can read for yourself, the above Canon gives the Bishop (i.e. the Ordinary) the right to ask her to recant, and because she remained obstinate, he was correct in his action to fire her.  Basically, if it ain't Catholic and if you persist in holding to views that aren't Catholic and you happen to work in a church that requires your obedience, you can be dismissed.  Period.  The Church is not about YOU.  It's about God. And if there is a cancer present in the Body, it must be removed. If a warning (i.e. an antibiotic or chemo treatment) is sufficient, well, then all is well. Otherwise, the Bishop gets to apply the scalpel.  Deal with it.  

Unfortunately that's not the only example, but I'll go no further and I won't link to the situation as it really isn't necessary. 

There's another Canon, however we also must consider, because it's ANOTHER thing we see a lot of at least in our local diocese.  

Canon 1373:

A person who publicly incites among subjects animosities or hatred against the Apostolic See or an ordinary because of some act of power or ecclesiastical ministry or provokes subjects to disobey them is to be punished by an interdict or other just penalties. 

Yup.  Have seen a few such examples.  I've seen such disobedience provoked by both lay people and clergy, here and abroad, and recently.  And they tend to do this in the public press, via blogging and personal websites, published literature for various dissident organizations, etc,  as well as in the secular media.  Anything that incites hatred against the Church seems to make it into print and visual media. 

We ALL need to be on notice, and especially those to whom this canon applies! Thus, they who offend against the Church have no right to whine and complain when they're busted and are given said penalties, which can be a range of things.  

People, especially fellow bloggers, we need to take care with our words and positions. It is not that we cannot comment on current events, or share our opinions. But we need to remember that even if we don't personally like a Priest or a Bishop, we DO need to respect the office and tender our words according to what is owed for that reason.  Yes, we all know that the road to Hell is paved with the skulls of Bishops (according to St. John Chrysostom), but do we really want our own skulls parked right there next to them on that roadway to eternal condemnation? 

Something to consider the next time we put our fingers to the keyboard. 

I have ONE other thing to say

The reality is that we are used to American Civil Law in our "democratic" society. Under Civil Law, the State considers that we have rights because the law gives them to us.  We can summarize the basic premise by saying that I have a right, which means YOU have a duty.  

In Canon Law, it is just the opposite; I have a right BECAUSE I have a duty. 

Canon law is an ordering of society in order that holiness and salvation can be achieved.  That order is imperative. The law isn't there just to be there; it's there to help us reach to God. It's there because we are fallen creatures and were structures not in place, there would be the same chaos American society is headed for  in our socialist/communist regime.  

So as you read these canons, don't complain that it's complicated. READ them.  It's common sense, really. And if you love God, if you TRULY love God, then you'll love His representatives on earth, and you will treat them with the same proper regard owed to anyone in the dignity of such an office.  It doesn't mean you have to like them or agree with them personally. It means you respect the Office, the Title, because you respect God. And it is that very duty by virtue of your baptism that gives you any other Ecclesial right within the Catholic Church.  

See you in the Confession line.  


--------------------------------  
NOTATIONS:  

* Canon 1364.1 cites apostate from the faith, heretic, schismatic incurs latae sententiae excommunication

§1. A person must believe with divine and Catholic faith all those things contained in the word of God, written or handed on, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn magisterium of the Church or by its ordinary and universal magisterium which is manifested by the common adherence of the Christian faithful under the leadership of the sacred magisterium; therefore all are bound to avoid any doctrines whatsoever contrary to them.

§2. Each and every thing which is proposed definitively by the magisterium of the Church concerning the doctrine of faith and morals, that is, each and every thing which is required to safeguard reverently and to expound faithfully the same deposit of faith, is also to be firm-ly embraced and retained; therefore, one who rejects those propositions which are to be held definitively is opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church.


Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Kiss of Death

I've been thinking a lot lately about Judas, and how much I resemble him.  I recently watched The Passion of the Christ again, and the scene that stood out to me this time was near the beginning.  There is something in the way he furtively leaves the Last Supper and goes to receive his payment for betrayal. 

There is something in the way the money bag flies through the air; and as Judas desperately and clumsily reaches out to catch the
 offhand throw, the money falls at his feet and scatters.  He is helpless to stop it.  He looks up at the crowd that stares back at him dispassionately and with an air of condescension, then with an attitude of desperate greed Judas drops to the ground to quickly gather up the silver he was paid for the blood of Christ who had ordained him that very evening.

He looks up at the soldiers, and the fear in his eyes cannot be mistaken. It seems he is already regretting his act.  And yet, he goes into the Garden, and there finds Jesus waiting for him. The man he had followed, the man who had washed his feet, even knowing of the betrayal to come.  The One who had shown him ONLY love...and gave him the free will to do what he set out to do. 

Then, when Judas returns to the Garden with the soldiers, how does the betrayal occur?  Through a kiss. An expression of love. 

How many times have I expressed love to Christ while bearing hatred in my heart in some way?

How many times have I begged Jesus for His love, while I pondered my next sin, my very betrayal of His own love?  

Judas flees, realizing what he's done.  The movie shows his torment and ultimate demise; suicide. 

Yes, he sinned in his betrayal, but that sin was forgivable.  He could have come to the Cross.  He could have come to Christ an any time and made his repentance clear.  He could have been forgiven.  

Just as I've been forgiven, over and over, for my many betrayals.  

Because, every time I sin, I  give Christ the same kiss of death.  The very same. 

We look to Peter, whose love, as beloved John Paul II pointed out, set him up for failure. It was in how Peter followed Christ to his scourging that put him in the position to be confronted, and where he denied him.  Three times.  

Judas denied Christ only ONCE; when he betrayed him. The betrayal was a single, seamless act.   Peter denied him THREE times.

Yet their stories are very different.  Peter continued to follow Christ.  He truly loved Him and could not stay away.  He repented of his denial.  When Our Lord appeared a few days later on the sea shore, Peter was so excited that he didn't wait for the boat to pull up...he leapt overboard and SWAM to Jesus, where he was given three chances to overcome his three denials.

Our God is a God of Mercy.  Infinite mercy. 

Judas, though, betrayed Christ, ran away...and stayed away.  It was his rejection of God's love that lead him into such complete despair that he saw no other way out than suicide.  

How many times have I rejected God's love?  In choosing to sin, not only have I betrayed Him, but I've rejected Him. 

How many times has Our Lord come after me, in spite of and because of the fact that He was nailed to the Cross on my behalf?  

How many times have I been tempted to avoid Confession because I've thought my sins were greater than God's own mercy?  

How many times have I turned my back on Jesus because Mercy was inconvenient to my Pride?

Judas was the first to leave Mass right in the middle, and completely missed the consecration which took place as Christ died upon the Cross.   Judas left right after his own ordination, only to bring destruction when he returned.  And ultimately, he missed the biggest moment of all. 

Judas did repent, but he repented to the wrong authority; rather than going to Christ, the one whom He'd wronged, God himself whom he betrayed, he tried to give back the tangible evidence of his sin.  

How many times have I tried to undo my own wrong only to make things worse?

How many times have those efforts been rejected because the ones in whom I sought comfort were the same ones who led me into sin to begin with?

How many times have I looked to myself for salvation, thinking I could fix things on my own?

Had Judas gone to Jesus, Our Lord would have taken him back, and although He would not have "undone" the damage, he would have helped Judas to carry that cross he'd so willingly embraced.  What was done was done, but Jesus understands everything. 

He asks only one thing; humility.  That in our sin, we recognize our sin, repent of it, and embrace the effects of that sin.  None of us is immune.  

This year, I'm trying to recognize each time I kiss Jesus in an act of betrayal, and have found even this short project to be maybe a little more than I can bear.  Yet it has been such a blessing, reminding me that whenever God reveals sin, He also reveals His Mercy. 

Lately I've been fleeing His mercy, realizing my own lack of repentance, my own failings.  Yet Our Lord has come after me, refusing to let me go. I've been astonished at His guidance, unable to deny what He has done.  

And yet, I look at Judas, and I see myself. If not in reality, then at least in the danger that has tempted me. To betray Christ, to run away, and even to be lost forever. I can understand why Judas did what he did; why he died at the end of a rope.  I've known that temptation as well and have been spared it only by the grace of God.  

Death is not what Our Lord wills.  He did not will for Judas to despair. He did not will for Judas to betray Him. The reality was that Judas did these things all on his own.  Jesus suffered greatly on account of Judas, whom He loved dearly.

It was Judas who rejected Jesus; not the other way around.  It was Judas who ran away and gave in to despair. He refused God's mercy.  

The reality is that the kiss Judas gave to Jesus was a betrayal not of Christ alone, but of himself.  He died in that moment, and he knew it. It was that very misuse of an act and symbol of love that truly revealed the state of Judas's soul. And if he could so warp love, how, in his mind, could he come back? 

Through Christ, and Christ alone.  For Jesus went willingly to his Passion and death.  He went, and would have taken Judas with Him, but instead, Judas refused the uncondemning gaze of Jesus whose last words to him were, 

"Would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?"  

A statement, a question...not a condemnation. 

Jesus, I trust in Thee. 



Friday, March 27, 2009

A Little Levity

I've been going through a very rough period this year, a lot of stuff going on and really, no end in sight.  Even some people at the parish where I work have noted that I seemed down. I used the excuse that I was just recovering from bronchitis, but that excuse can only go so far (and it was only partially true at the time!).  

But all is well, I don't want anyone to worry; we all have times in our life that seem crushing, and yes, we have to deal with them, and they come and go and I'm grateful to have friends who notice and who care and have expressed that they're available to talk if I need them.  

All that said, tonight I want to write about something a little more fun, and hopefully inspire some discussion in the combox.  Because it's something we've all experienced!  

That's right...embarrassing moments!  And so, tonight, I'm going to share with you one of Adoro's Embarrassing Moments. I may link to the others I've written about, if I can find them!  

GIVE ME BACK MY FAX!  

Intrigued?  Here's the story: 

Back when I was working as a Claims Investigator, I had a really stinky claim that we HAD to pay even though it had fraud all over it and I even had the smoking gun. But it was out of Arizona that has terrible terrible laws that basically forces the company to pay fraudulent claims.  Well, the "stolen" car showed up, the NICB (National Insurance Crime Bureau) helped to ID the VIN, and I got the call to look at it, document it, and take it to our storage area for salvage sale.  

We'd paid off the title on this leased vehicle a few weeks before, but hadn't yet received the Lien card, so the fact that the car was recovered just then was a bit problematic. 

As it was,  a lot of problems surrounded the payment of this claim to the lien holder, and even when it was recovered, the guy at the tow yard couldn't seem to get it through his head that the PLATE did not match the car (being "stolen") and so when I had to call to deal with some tow yard issues, he could never find it and insisted it wasn't there!  Even though I'd seen it, the NICB had seen it, the Auto Theft unit had seen it and towed it there...this dufus INSISTED that the car wasn't there!  

And so it went, problems like that ongoing. 

Well, we were told we'd have to produce the title in order to get the car out of storage and take it to our own free storage until it could be sold. 

So I called the lien holder. As it turned out, they claimed they hadn't received payment. I provided proof.  Honda, after doing some research, realized that they'd applied the payment to another account, and at least were able finally to apply it correctly to the fraudulent customer's account instead. 

But they STILL refused to send the Lien Card! 

As it turned out, they wanted documentation from my total loss workup, wanting the car's actual mileage and condition, etc.  I couldn't provide that because, at the time we settled the claim, the car was still missing in action.  I had to estimate mileage and condition based on what the customer reported and average condition for a car of that year and mileage.  

They wanted hard evidence, so in effect, they were asking me to create and falsify a document. 

I refused, my Manager agreed. 

I explained that without even a "Guarantee of Lien Release" I could not even MOVE the car from this expensive police impound yard, and each day, charges were mounting. 

They didn't care...they wanted the false document. 

This is the good part: 

So I wrote a very terse letter explaining our position and their obligations, as well as the consequences to THEM for not providing what we needed. In effect, the letter stated that as long as they would not send the lien card, the car still belonged to them and thus we were not responsible for charges. I provided the name of the tow yard, phone, address, etc. and told them the current charges  and MN law pertaining to when the yard could assume title for themselves. 

I took the letter to my Manager to be reviewed, he made a few changes so I took it back to my desk and edited the letter per his suggestions.  I hit "PRINT" and went to the printer to pick up the copy. That evening I was in a rush, it was nearing the end of the day and I was SWAMPED, this problem on top of it all.  

I still had the edited version in hand so that I could compare the hard copy before I sent it in case I'd missed something.  After comparing the two, I crossed the office and went to the fax machine, wrote up a cover sheet to the rep I'd been dealing with at Honda, placed the paper on the scanner, and sent the fax. 

As the last flash of paper passed into the machine and I heard the tones indicating that it was transmitting to Honda, I glanced down smugly at the paper in my hand, realizing that this was the end; either they would have to acquiesce to my request for the Lien card or realizing we would do nothing more and the stupid car was their responsibility.  

And then it hit me.  The paper in my hand was the edited version that I'd just printed off. 

In horror, I stared at the fax machine which was then spitting out the two pages it had scanned...the cover sheet...and the letter. 

The very  business-snotty letter I'd just sent was not the proofed and approved copy;  it was the one with my Manager's editing marks and suggestions. 

And it had already been received at Honda. 

All smugness left me.  I quickly re-faxed the letter, the correct one, hoping mightily that maybe someone at Honda would lose the letter. 

But I have a feeling it's likely framed and hanging on a wall there somewhere, and honestly, I'm surprised it hasn't been posted to the Internet....

Yes...it was THAT BAD....

Business-snotty FAIL! 


Other published tales of Embarrassing Moments of Adoro's Life:

BAD COP!  NO DONUT!


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Valid and Invalid, Licit vs Illicit in Canon Law

I'm working on studying for my Canon Law exam, and as a result, a friend and I had a discussion yesterday on the difference between Valid/Invalid, Licit/Illicit. She wasn't real clear on the concept, and I wasn't clear in explaining it, which lead me to believe, of course, that I also wasn't clear in my understanding!  I tried to look at it through a common and timely issue; that of the SSPX.  

But, alas, that scenario is too complicated and I'd rather not "reason" something through when I haven't had enough of Canon Law to do so with any REAL intelligence.  And, really, there's a lot of people out there on all sides who are well-read but not authoritatively versed in Canon Law even though they are pretending to be so.  Their pontificating is quite off-putting and confusing. Thus, as a disclaimer, I will NOT discuss the SSPX with regard to this topic.  

I took some time to think about the terms, though, pondering it through, taking also into consideration what our professor taught us in his notes and lecture. 

Validity versus Invalidity is a question of whether Jesus is actually present in that act, or especially (in my mind), a Sacrament.  Something that is Valid has all the juridic effects (i.e. all the effects of the law), while an Invalid act does NOT have the juridic effects.   

Licit versus Illicit doesn't leave us the question of whether Jesus is there or not; rather, the question becomes: is Jesus there and pleased, or is He MAD?   An act that is licit is done according to the norm of the law (ie the GIRM, Redemptionis Sacramentum, etc.) or whether it is NOT done according to the law.   Thus, an act can be illicit but still retain validity.  That would be a way of saying that Jesus is present but very upset! 

I was trying to think of a way to explain this in other terms, and so, the following is what I came up with this morning while I was brushing my teeth:

*

Let's say that you are a child and you pretty much have standing permission, within certain defined and obvious parameters, to ride your bike to the corner store every day after school and get a candy bar or bag of chips or a pop or something.  And you have to take your little brother and little sister with you because they are your willing responsibility and how you make your allowance.  This is routine, you're in charge of them and that's part of the understanding.  

And as you ride with them down the sidewalk to the store, you wave at Harry the Barber who is reading the newspaper next to his barber pole, and you pass Mrs. Green at the vegetable stand a few more doors down, and they all know you and know that it's OK for you to be doing this.  They know your Mom, you see, and because this town is kind of a big family, they're also looking out for you.   And because of this, they also know that this trip to the store is a valid act, done with the Mother's blessing and permission, which, in effect, means that she is present with you on these trips.  

Now, if they saw you driving Mom's car down the road with baby sister on the hood at 3 am, they would ALSO know that this is VERY invalid and they'd be calling your Mom because this is CLEARLY outside of the boundaries and there's NO WAY this would have her blessing! 

Now, as far as Licit/Illicit goes, let's say that you got home from school and just before you left to take your daily trip to the store, you got a call from your Mother, who said that you should wait because she didn't want you to take your little sister that day.  She wanted you to wait until she got home from work because of something to do with your little sister. 

But, instead of being obedient to that command, you copped an attitude, got on your bikes, and all three went to the store as usual.  Now, Harry the Barber and Mrs. Green the vegetable lady wouldn't know the difference, and would wave as they always do. 

And, in fact, that ride to the store would have all the same juridic effects as that of every other day; it would in fact, be taking place.  You would in fact be paying actual money for your actual snack, and your act would be witnessed by others.  And so, in effect, your Mother would still be with you because this is a normal function of your day, except for one thing....the fact that you are doing it as usual on that day is in DIRECT DISOBEDIENCE to a particular law or directive laid down by your Mother, which renders that trip to the store ILLICIT.  

In other words...Jesus is there but He. Is. MAD!  And, my son....YOU ARE SOOOO GROUNDED!  

So, we could say that the just penalty of the the betrayal of the Mother's trust is Excommunication, which you have enacted of your own accord. Because, in fact, your baby sister was supposed to be going to the doctor for an important diagnoses and because you took her away from her mother she missed her appointment and is going to become very, very sick...because of YOUR disobedience.  So...firstly, listen to your Mother! 

So, you're grounded (excommunicated), and certain things need to be in play in order for you to be able to act in the same capacity. You have to admit that what you have done is wrong, you have to apologize for that wrong, and that you understand the effect of your action.  (there's actually more to this so don't take this paragraph to be canonical...and it's not on this test, anyway.)    

 
DISCLAIMER:  The above (hopefully fictional) scenario is NOT meant to parody ANYTHING in real life, but only explain things in entertaining terms which maybe I'll remember when I'll take the test. If my understanding is flawed, please tell me so before I take the test! And suggest changes to the scenario that would make the example proper.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Impossible

Today while at work, I ran into a friend who had come in for an hour of Adoration. It was great to see her so we chatted a bit. She is one of the people in my life who knows I'm discerning and is very supportive of this quest. 

During our conversation I asked her to pray for my very impossible situation; I confessed to her that I don't know what's going to happen this summer.

At work, we're down to 10 hours per week, and, as it is, I can't pay my bills on what I'm making full time! It doesn't help that my mortgage went up yet again, that everything else is going up, and of course, the large car bill from January isn't going to be anywhere close to being paid off any time soon. 

And, the great irony;  here God gives me a job that basically gives me 6 weeks of the summer "off", which, I was hoping, would allow me to visit a community or two.  The reality is, though, that I have to find another job that will give me at least 30 hours per week (assuming the same or similar pay scale), or, quite literally I'll be declaring bankruptcy. 

I know without a doubt that God lead me to my current position and wants me there, and I've found something interesting about working in a parish; I've gotten attached. The people that I've met there are amazing and I can't IMAGINE not knowing them. If I leave this job, I'll feel like I'm leaving them. And given that I live so far away from my work, I likely wouldn't often go there after leaving the position. 

So it's a dilemma. I am keeping my eyes open for another full-time job, as guilty as it makes me feel, because the reality is that I can't live on what I'm making and I certainly can't pay down any debt in this way...if anything, debt is getting higher, steadily higher.  And even temp jobs can be challenging; long term temp jobs may actually not work out espcially considering I'll have well-defined end and start days at my current job, as well as the 10 hour per week obligation.  And at the other extreme, temp jobs can be very brief with long hiatuses in between...so...not real lucrative.  

As I was explaining these things to my friend, she pointed out the Solemnity today, Mary's reaction when told she would bear the messiah. How could this be? It's impossible!

But NOTHING is impossible for God. Sometimes he brings us to impossibility so that His glory can be revealed. 

It may very well be that God wills financial disaster for me, because it might bring about a greater good. It may very well be that He has another plan which will go into effect at the very last moment. 

In fact, that's what happened when I got the call to interview for my current position; I was at the end of my rope, I was about to pick up the phone and call my mortgage company and say I couldn't make my next payment, in hopes of some kind of options.  Instead, I was called, and subsequently hired.  Just at the last moment. 

So for now, all I can do is hope, and pray, knowing that if I am truly called to religious life, somehow God will send me on my visit where and when HE deems, and He will likewise show me how to deal with all my financial obligations at the same time. 

When I look at my life, I see nothing but a mountain of impossibility, completely insurmountable.  The only thing that keeps me from outright panic is, quite honestly, just not thinking about it.  As the bills come, I pay them if I can. If I can't pay them, I figure out what can wait and what can't.  And so far, I'm above water.  For now. 

And really...that's better than what a lot of people can say right now. 

Most of all, right now, though, I'm grateful to my dear friend for reminding me that our God is a God of impossibilities, and if He can be born of a virgin then my current problems are nothing but chaff on a breezy day. 
*

Annunciation

Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. Behold you shall conceive and bear a son and he will be called the Son of the Most High.

I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done unto me according to thy word.

The words of the angel, words of comfort to a young girl who didn't know what to make of both his greeting and very appearance: "Do not be afraid."

He announced to Mary her role in salvation history, and with great compassion as well as great hope; it is said that all of Heaven held their breath in anticipation, awaiting her response. She had free will, and could have refused such a gift. But through Mary's yes, through her unconditional fiat, she brought salvation into the world in the person of her Son.

Mary's "yes" overturned Eve's "no" and effected the beginning of the reconciliation of man to God.  Her complete and willful obedience was in answer to Eve's complete and willful disobedience. 

We honor her today and are called to ponder in our own hearts this great and joyful mystery. 

Although I have been praying the Sorrowful Mysteries for most of lent, today I will suspend that discipline and pray the Annunciation, over and over again, focusing on that moment in time, that moment of complete surrender and complete trust in God. 

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee!  Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. 

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  

Amen. 

Monday, March 23, 2009

Youth Dying for Truth

I was like most youth when I "left" the Church. My formation had been horrid at best, I didn't know half or even a quarter of what I needed to know, and in reality, I was not equipped to face...well...reality.

So despite my very intense involvement in my home parish, I was lost when I went to college. I didn't go to Mass. I wanted to be cool and sleep in. And when I DID go to Mass, it followed a weird "Youth Mass" format that involved the priest inviting the students to circle around the altar during the consecration. I watched from a balcony with some friends, astonished, and yet, thinking the way my classmates in the front row leapt to their feet and circled the alter looked incredibly stupid, blocked the view for even we in the balcony, and that the entire thing seemed....wrong.

I was so put off that I went only one more time to a Sunday evening Mass in that particular place on campus, and the ONLY memory I have of it is from the balcony, watching the exact same characters leaping to circle the altar, while most of the students remained, kneeling silently.

My other memories of college Mass involved those from the chapel, where they always seemed to play the piped-in popular music of the day, the theme song of which was the secular song, "Hero" from some movie I never saw because it was both popular AND cheesy. To this day, I haven't seen the movie attached to that song and can't even remember what it is.

All I learned about Mass in college was that it was about us, that it was about popular culture, and I couldn't identify with it because it didn't come CLOSE to touching the very real issues I was dealing with in my life: divorce, death, suffering, the mental illness of a parent, the occult...etc. All I got was affirmation of false choices; I wasn't EVER shown WHY we go to Mass, WHO Jesus was and remains, or WHY it was necessary to go to Mass. Because it was all about us as teens and college students, I never learned anything objective about theology or Christ.

As it was, Mass was no different than any other part of my life. So I didn't go. There was no point.

That said, I went forward to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion, even though I was in a state of mortal sin, and I could not understand my tears, my repentance, my inability to remain aloof. Because He was there, and in spite of all that was wrong, all I did wrong...He saw and He knew...and He called.

I graduated college, and reconnected with college friends when I moved to the Cities. A friend, an even more marginal a Catholic than I, wanted to go to the Basilica Youth Group in St. Paul, and I think she did go, but it never worked out for me. In fact, I've completely lost touch with her. But I remember a sense of disconnection we both shared. We were on the fringes, as we'd always been, not knowing how to really become involved.

At the time, I didn't have a parish. I was seeking God, calling myself "Catholic" but really wandering around going to Mass at different places, giving my heart to the things of this world. New Age, Occult...it was all the same to me.

I kind of felt like the Church didn't want me. When I DID go to Mass, I felt like a fraud, a stranger, someone Jesus would never want to know.

And I have to admit..I've never totally shaken that "feeling".

For years, I went online, searching out different parishes,  seeking a connection, a group I could join. But all of them seemed so much like the cookie-cutter "good kids" I knew in college who lived so "perfectly", did great things, were so intelligent and connected. They were the ones with perfect lives, scholarships, and the ones present at the Masses that didn't seem right, somehow.

And there was something "false" there that I couldn't put my finger on, and to this day, I STILL can't.

After my conversion, after I bought my townhome and joined my current parish, I became involved in my own local Young Adult group, and I didn't fit in even there. It was the same kind of "cookie cutter" person; young women and men with whom I could not identify. I'd seen so much, through both my personal and professional life, and through my own cynacism, all I needed was someone to understand me, even as I tried to understand Christ. It wasn't that the young adults I met pushed me aside; it was that I couldn't understand them or what I saw as their perfect lives.

It's the plague of good youth and young adult groups all around: those who have seen and lived some very serious things have a hard time when they come up against the innocence of lived holiness and...dare I say it?  An absence of suffering.  

That is not to say that those in those groups have not suffered, but rather, I find that in many of those groups are those whose parents are still married, whose parents have supported them when they HAVE gone wrong, and whose catechesis was actually not bad overall (even if in the case of college campuses the liturgy has gone wild). There are different variations of goodness and sin, but no matter where I have gone, I've always felt like the scruffy outcast.

It's not in anything they've done; there has simply always been a sense of not fitting in properly. A square peg in a round hole. Choose your cliche'.

It's been years now, and things ARE getting better. There are WONDERFUL Young Adult Apostolates such as the Frassati Society and other groups.  And although I've been involved in Frassati, this June I end my "tenure" even though my connection to them has been marginal.  As they've sat around discussing faith, I've been teaching it, in all my incompetence.  I look at their perceived holiness, wish I could be there, because, in reality, in knowing these people...they're living better than I am.  And yet...I can't spend any time with them because I'm WORKING for the Church. 

What irony...cut off from my own spiritual connections with people my own age because I'm...WORKING for the very venue.  

Yet, I know that it's not my group, anyway.  I can't put my finger on it, but I know that this is not my group of friends.  They are wonderful people...but they aren't people I understand, or who can possibly understand me. There is no ill will.  Just...a disconnect.  

And I'm in so many ways just like so many other Young Adults out there, wanting to find that group of good Catholic friends, but we don't fit a particular profile.  What about us?  Where do we go?  

Orphans. 

I'm reminded of Menudo;  when I was a child, I remember watching them EVERY SATURDAY, so sad when one of them left and sang his farewell song.  Being a Young Adult in the Church is a lot like that, but we don't get to sing because no one knows us to begin with.  We're just...here. In limbo.  Disconnected, because everything out there seems almost an extended model of teen ministry, which DOESN'T fit those of us who have seen things better left unmentioned.  

In June, I won't be singing a song of farewell to anyone, for there won't be anyone to listen as I turn 35.  And it doesn't matter.  Because my life in Christ hasn't been about age, or a group, or a title. 

Ultimately it's been about Christ. It's been about Truth. It's been about seeking Him, and HE has provided those connections He intended me to have with others. 

I'm very saddened that for so long, Truth has been left out of the formation of teens and young adults; Popular Culture has been put in place of history and transcendence.  I'm saddened that what was supposed to cater to my "sensibilities" turned out to be the things that pushed me away, and that those doing their best to actually provide something REAL have been stymied by everything that preceeded them.  

And the vestiges of bad liturgy, bad theology hang on, holding everyone back. 

Everyone seeking Truth wants a faith they can DIE for. 

Yes, I've found it, but it's taken me to the end of my youth to do so.  That shouldn't be.  

I'm now in this "limbo" age; I'm technically classified as a "Young Adult" but haven't actually been able to see myself as such for several years.  Yet, I can't pass into the next category, whatever it is.  Once we turn 35, we're not "young adults" anymore. We're....what?  

Who am I, in the Church?  A single woman, in limbo. That's all.  Not part of any group, any category. A free agent.  A dryer sock.  Lost. Found.  Undefined.  Lint. 

It doesn't matter.  I've found a Faith worth dying for.  I've not been other there looking for a label or a group, but I've been looking for LIFE. And I've found it in Christ.  

I'm not willing to die for a job or an ideal. 

I'm not willing to wander the desert for a theory.  

But I AM willing to die for Truth, and I've found it in the Cross.  It doesn't matter that you can't pigeonhole me into a particular age group;  the Church isn't about that.  It's about LIVING as Christ calls us to live, and we don't always have the support we think we need. But we have HIM, and that's all that matters.  

THAT'S what we need to remember when we work with young people; they aren't looking for a label, but for Truth. And when they find that, they'll find something worth dying for.  Take away the fluff and the bad liturgy; they can spot it. They want reality. They want what matches their lives. They can understand the Cross because they're living it every day, but no one is willing to point it out to them. 

I'm so sorry that for so long, so many have been lost because the models the Church has been using hasn't addressed the deepest needs of those who have been seeking. I'm so sorry that so many have been deprived of a very real connection to Christ that should have been there, but wasn't. 

But it doesn't have to be that way.  It doesn't matter how scruffy we are, how much we don't connect to the existing "models" embraced by various parishes in how to do "outreach".  What matters is Our Lord, who inflicts no models and no lables.  He simply IS, and it is HE who defines us and helps us to find ourselves, there in His light and loving shadow beneath the Cross.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

This Dark Valley

It's been an odd week; even as I was encouraged and strengthened by several conferences and talks, time in Adoration, and Mass, other powers have been at work actively discouraging me in too many ways to count.

I even received an email this weekend telling me to maybe NOT pursue the path that I’m on (in discerning the Passionists), but rather, go over old ground, look at that ground again or choose something lesser than the chalice I think is in front of me now.

I found the email to be so ironic; just recently I spoke with a group about Garden of Eden and the slithering voice of Satan, and listened to a speaker talk about how there is a temptation out there to ask us to be LESS than what God has called us to be.

The email disturbed me greatly because it played into my own doubts and fears, almost word for word. They are the same doubts and fears that have held me back for a very long time, and now, here is this exterior, allegedly objective “voice” saying, “Oh, you should actually look at this instead of this, you should consider a lesser commitment instead of making such an offering of yourself. Maybe God is calling you to what you thought before and not this amazing thing it took Him so long to get you to consider.”

In that email, I clearly recognized the scent of sulpher, something the person writing didn’t even know they were bringing. 

The messenger is innocent; the spirit behind the messenger isn’t.

And it has made me consider, too, how often I’ve been a tool, how often I’ve spoken carelessly, allowing the wrong door to be opened, maybe bringing discouragement to someone else who really needed affirmation instead.

The sad thing is…this discouragement hit me this weekend not just from a random email, but from a lot of other sources as well. All weekend long, all WEEK long, I’ve been plagued by doubts, discouraged through a number of things, wondering how in the world any of what I think God is asking me to do can possibly happen, especially with my history, the reality of my life?

I know who I am, God knows who I am, and realizing there’s a lot to go through is difficult enough. Yet it seems everything is being piled on, one thing after another. And then this weekend…this.

So it is that I’m so thankful for some advice received from a priest at my parish, something he told me several months ago. When he learned of my discernment, he told me that there would ALWAYS be doubts, and they wouldn’t go away.

He didn’t tell me they’d get worse, but that’s been the case. Ever since I made the decision to go in one specific direction, I’ve been under attack both from expected and unexpected sources.
Maybe this is what it means to keep one’s eyes on the Cross. To walk through that dark valley and know that the shadows don’t matter. Yes, the shadows must be confronted, each one, and we must pass through them, but in the end, they have no authority over us. The only shadow that matters is the one of the Cross, the one we follow, because once we’re within the shadow of the Cross, nothing else can touch us. The shadow only looks dark because the light of Christ is so strong it blinds us – and makes us see everything more clearly that we ever have before. 

I only wish this valley weren't so painful, but were it not, there would be no sacrifice to endure. 

So be it. 

I only pray not to be alone in these moments, and in looking to the Cross, I know that there will never be such complete abandonment as that experienced by Our Lord when He cried out in the depths of His agony.  

I suffer so much less. 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Trusting God

This Lent, I think, has been and continues to be an exercise in learning to trust God. I feel like every part of my life is "in crisis" in some way, and I'm just waiting for the next thing. In fact...I'm almost resigned to the next thing, whatever it is. 

And then, a surprise event; a retreat was short on staff, and as one of my parishes is hosting, well, I was basically told I was needed, not just as "furniture", but to fulfill an important role. One which didn't make sense, because it really would require I not be a "fill in" but present for the retreatants. 

In looking at the schedule, in talking it over with the team and visiting priest who is running the retreat, well, I have the freedom to stick with the original plan and end my role this afternoon.  

Except...I can't. It isn't right.  I can't establish a connection with these kids and just disappear.  So while I will have to leave at night and I will have to leave this afternoon, I will be returning to the retreat both this afternoon, and, I think, tomorrow.  

Here's the ironic thing; I have NO IDEA what I'm doing, I'm completely unequipped for this role and all I can do is look at the Cross and say, "Well...here we go!"  

At least God is doing all the hard work...and maybe teaching me to trust that that really is the case.  

For the sake of these retreatants...I certainly hope so.  

I'm quite concerned about all the study time I desperately need, and am losing given that I'm spending extra time working. But if there's another thing that I've learned in the past, it is that God doesn't abandon us, and somehow, He'll help me get through everything I need to do, one way or another. 

In the end, nothing depends on me. Thank God!
*

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Head Injuries

This is a serious topic, and one that should be discussed;  the fact is, head injuries can be deadly. 

The big news today is about how actress Natasha Richardson died of a head injury received as a result of a ski crash on a beginner's slope. Initially she was fine, they tell us, but the other symptoms appeared.  And that's what happens. One minute someone is fine...the next...they're dead.  

In my first year as a Ski Patroller, I remember that one of our fellow patrollers took a serious spill on the bunny hill. It was a freak thing; he was an amazing skier, he and his wife were actually moving to Europe and were going to be patrolling there, in the Alps. Well, he took a headlong crash and I remember being on scene...it was pretty obvious he'd hit hard.  And yet...it was a bunny hill.  Never underestimate the force of a fall, even when it doesn't seem to make sense. 

I was also the patroller in charge of a scene on that very same bunny hill a couple years later,  where a little boy had taken quite a creative fall. And although over and over again, he said he hadn't hit his head at all...as it turned out, he DID have a head injury, although in his case it was a slight concussion.

Both of the above people recovered and went on with their lives, but witnessing the damage caused what what was later diagnosed as a "slight concussion" was quite daunting. In the first case, the patroller, "Bill" was bleeding all over the place as a result of a direct hit.  In the latter case, "Andy" had no outward sign of his injury, but he DID go downhill QUICK about 20 minutes later.

One of the scary things with head injuries is that although there are symptoms, they don't always match on every occasion. There are closed and open head injuries. There are direct hits, and hits that involve the brain being "rattled" even though the head has not taken a direct  strike.  There are immediate symptoms, and delayed symptoms.  And sometimes, the patient has to REPORT those symptoms because they can't otherwise be recognized.  (Actually, this would be the difference between Signs and Symptoms:  Signs are objective and can be outwardly recognized, such as an altered mental status, blown pupils, etc.,  Symptoms are subjective and must be reported, although sometimes can be guessed; i.e. someone who is drowsy can report being drowsy, but maybe it can be observed, too. But typically, symptoms MUST be reported due to their subjective nature.)

Personal Experience That Scares Me Now

I've suffered a few concussions; one from a direct hit, a couple others as a "secondary" injury. 

When I was 13, I was in a serious car accident, in which I had not been wearing a seat belt.  We rear ended another car, and I can STILL remember the collision.  As my head struck the windshield at 40 mph or so, my knees hit the dash, and I was thrown back against the seat, dazed, encased in darkness.  I remember shaking it off and looking over at the driver, who was asking me if I was OK. I said I was,  although I was not.  My knees hurt. My head hurt. I remember reaching up and palpating a bump on my head, surprised that was all I seemed to have. I remember trying to peer through a cloud of darkness and trying to grasp what had just happened and what was going on. 

I was really really tired, but got out of the car, wanting to be OK, thinking if I pretended I was, that would effect reality.   

When the ambulance arrived, I told the 'medic, when he asked, that I had not lost consciousness. In my mind, I hadn't. It had just "gotten dark" for awhile.  I didn't tell him even that.  

Uh...HELLO!  

At the time, I was still a pretty shy person, and he was a stranger; it stood to reason that I wouldn't just blurt out what I was feeling, because I didn't want to be the center of attention.   IN a way, because I wanted to avoid attention, I fled from the treatment I needed, and honestly thought I DIDN'T need. 

But I should have told him the other symptoms; the headache, which WAS severe, in spite of the brave face I tried to put on it.  I didn't tell him how tired I was, and in reality, I don't think I know those were symptoms.  They were just how I felt but meant nothing to me.  I didn't expect to feel GOOD after being involved in a fairly serious car accident.  I didn't expect, that if my noggin had cracked a windshield, that I'd feel good, but I didn't really think I was injured, either. 

On the funny side...the Sheriff himself was at that scene and offered to give me a ride home. I was a little intimidated at the time, and wondered if he'd walk to me to the door (which actually would have been proper).  But no, I said I was fine and would prefer a ride from my friend, thinking that if a cop brought me home, Mom would REALLY freak out!  

Well, as it was, I got a ride home from my friend's brother- in-law,  and Mom's immediate reaction, as I feared, was to overreact and bring me to the ER in a panic. I had a small cut on my head. As we were led back to an examining room, she said, "Oh, I hope she doesn't need stitches!"

I stopped in my tracks. "Stitches?"   (I've never been a fan of needles....)

I didn't need stitches. But somehow they coaxed me back and once I had a bed to lie on, I did so. I wanted to go to sleep. They didn't seem to pick up on that. The doctor asked me everything else, gave me the neurological tests, everything, even as I sat there wanting nothing more than to sleep. 

When we got home, I worked hard to stay awake, and when I finally DID go to bed, Mom spent the night waking me up every two hours to ask me "stupid questions."  I just wanted to sleep.  Of course, you realize that those "stupid questions" were quite necessary and thank God Mom did what she had to do and asked them. (And I got them all right!)  :-D 

(As an aside...I was glad she didn't ask me anything about algebra or geometry...)

At the ER they had given me a sheet of paper that said if the headache was ongoing, we should come back.  I actually put it away and said nothing.  The headache was so horrible that I couldn't do anything for DAYS, but I never told Mom how bad it was. In the afternoons, I would lie down hoping for some relief, and finally the pain would abate enough to allow me to function again. 

That was my first concussion.  Undiagnosed, but I know enough now that there's no doubt that I had one.  Fun.  

The second one happened when I was in the Ski Patrol's candidacy program. 

On a Saturday evening, as an Auxiliary Patroller (IE trained in Outdoor Emergency Care, the equivalent to EMT, had not passed the Hill Test, thus not wearing an identifying jacket), I took a bad fall.  I wasn't a great skier at the time, and was "ripping" down a slope.  At the bottom was a snow machine which caused the slope to go from icy to sticky with new, wet, manufactured snow. I turned to make my hockey-stop, recognizing the conditions, but misjudged the space and the snow, besides the fact my weight was on the wrong ski.  I crashed, hard, and in that crash there was no "slide" to absorb the impact. I think I almost felt my brain hit my skull.  

But I stood up,even in that piercing pain,  brushed myself off, and went on, with a headache that got worse and worse throughout the evening. 

I went home, and the next day got up and returned to the ski area for Hill Training, already fearing that maybe I shouldn't be driving, much less skiing. But I didn't want to say anything because passing the Hill Test was EVERYTHING to me. 

That day I was just "off" in general.  I had no balance. While skiing, I actually had a really creative crash that jammed my skis between  the snow and a little "cliff", causing a friend to have to help me disengage from the "trap".  While standing on flat ground near the lift, I tipped over very suddenly, and later that day, in a store, I quite literally just fell over.  It was the oddest thing; while I've never been a graceful person, it is NOT normal for me to be standing one moment and lying on the ground the next, with no memory as to how I'd gotten there. 

So you see the problem, don't you? 

None of me fellow patrollers recognized the signs because they hadn't seen the crash and had no idea that I had other symptoms, including a headache much like the one I'd had when I was 13.  How could they know? Even though I suspected at the time I might have a closed head injury, I said nothing, choosing to say nothing, thinking maybe if I did, they would pull me from training that day.  (Wisely, in fact.)  

I never experienced nausea, but I did experience a certain confusion, loss of balance, and the piercing headache. 

I should have been in the hospital;  that injury...both injuries, could have killed me.  

And a LOT of people experience this and live to tell about it. But every so often, we get an example of someone who doesn't.  

My heart goes out to Natasha's family, and she herself also remains in my prayers.  What they must be suffering is incomprehensible.  In one moment their dear one is present in their lives, and after something that seems so small...she's gone. 

None of us knows the day or the hour, but there is one thing this tragic accident brings to the forefront; and that is the reality that one doesn't NEED to die of such an injury.  We all need to be vigilant and recognize those things that could cause such an injury. It seems in her case she was given the proper advice and followed it, and really, that's all anyone can do. 

I encourage everyone to become educated in these things, if not to use them professionally then at least to be able to help those you love if they ARE ever injured.  When in doubt, take your friend to Urgent Care or the ER. It's better to be seen than not.  

Even in my case, I suspected an injury, but didn't take the initiative to go;  but had someone insisted, I would have. Of course, they would have had to drive me.  I shudder to think, now, that I was driving a few hours between the ski area and home when I shouldn't have been driving at all!  

Our brains are very sensitive and it doesn't take much to kill us. Please take any kind of head injury very seriously, and know the symptoms, or even the possibility. If one seems likely...get to the doctor.  As soon as possible. And tell them every symptom, even if it doesn't seem important, because at that point, everything is. 

Please keep Natasha Richardson in your prayers, and all of her family, as well as the families that are living out this very same thing right now. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Just Sayin'

I just want to say that as a fellow math-atheist, I fully agree with this very wise Seminarian, Michael and the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon he has posted.  

If he and his very profound understanding is any indication of that of the rest of his brothers,  we can rest assured we'll all be in good hands. 

Ahhh!  How NICE to see wisdom! 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Making a Mockery of Christ

From the Divine Office today, from a sermon by St. Peter Chrysologus, bishop:

There are three things, my brethren, by which faith stands firm, devotion remains constant, and virtue endures. They are prayer, fasting, and mercy. Prayer knocks at the door, fasting obtains, mercy receives. Prayer, mercy and fasting: these three are one, and they give life to each other.

Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them; they cannot be separated. If you have only one of them or not all together, you have nothing. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others you open God's ear to yourself.

When you fast, see the fasting of others. If you want God to know that you are hungry, know that another is hungry. If you hope for mercy, show mercy. If you look for kindness, show kindness. If you want to receive, give. If you ask for yourself what you deny to others, your asking is a mockery
.

These words condemn me, and it's excruciating. On every level, every word...I fall short.  

One of the things I'm trying to work on is forgiveness; more and more, I realize how much I hold on to grudges. I realize how much I complain about people who have wounded me, but forget how much I have wounded others.  I think of offenses both ancient and recent, and my self-righteous attitude towards those who have offended or injured me in some way, both big and small. 

And this runs the gamut;  serious offenses from childhood, things that have formed me through abuse and injury, and more recently, offenses that have simply wounded my pride. 

True holiness asks us to regard others as more important than ourselves, to defer to them even to our own detriment. And I've found myself having to do this, and it's not easy. Especially when I believe I'm right, and even more especially...when I KNOW I'm right!  But sometimes it's better to back off and acquiesce for the sake of the other;  if the lesson is important enough, we'll BOTH get the message God wants us to receive. And it is in those moments we need to sacrifice our own will and allow God to take the lead. 

But what really  convicts me is this:  "If you want to receive, give. If you ask for yourself what you deny to others, your asking is a mockery."

How often have my prayers been a mockery?  

How often have I harbored a grudge against another, while asking God for mercy for my own transgressions?  

How often have I approached the altar at Mass while feeling and resenting the sting of a rebuke of another, just or unjust?  

How often have I expected kindness, even if I have been unkind?  

How often have I held myself up as judge, jury, and executioner, and resented those SAME actions in another?

How often in the actions of others have I been shown a mirror of myself, and even though BOTH of us have been wrong, have I  held my own position up as the superior one? 

How often have I asked for mercy, even as I have refused mercy to another? 

How often have I pounded the nails into the hands and feet of Christ, even as I have condemned others, even to their faces, of doing the same thing? 

How often have I held both the hammer and the nail, failing to realize it was my own soul being pierced, and each action was to my own condemnation?  

How often have I looked into the loving eyes of Christ and directed my gaze from the wounds I have caused in order to avoid responsiblity for my own actions? 

How often have I directed my gaze away from others because, in my faulty judgment...they didn't look enough like Christ to satisfy me? 

How often have I condemned others, even though Jesus has done nothing but forgive me? 

How many times have I gone about my day, and my prayer and have done nothing but make a mockery of Christ?

How many times in my life have I struck the Rock and Crucified Christ because of my own unwillingness to kneel at His feet in humility?  

How many times, in a single day, have I made a mockery of Christ?

Ecce Homo!  

Behold the Man!


Behold the Man...

St. Patrick's Breastplate


I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.
I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spic├Ęd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Passion

Have you ever climbed a mountain?  Or just a large hill or bluff?  What about a tower, one to which you had to travel?  Do you remember, during your ascent, looking behind you, and at first, you saw only the bare path over which you'd just crossed.  And after awhile, maybe a few switchbacks, you look back again, and you can see the treetops, but not much else, other than your car in the parking lot.  And so you give up, but then, some time later, as you climb higher and higher, you come to a lookout point.  And at that point, your trail guide says to you, "Look!"  And you look out over the valley, transfixed by the view, seeing the road, the other lookout points, the intersections, and the trail you've climbed.  In that view, you understand a lot more than you did as you traveled along it; the overhead view gives you an entirely different understanding both of where you've been...and where you're going. 

My vocational discernment has been a lot like that for me, only it looks, from my current vantage point, a lot like the exodus of the Israelites as they wandered the desert for 40 years.  Stumbling upon a mountain that has lead me to a vantage point has been pure Grace for me...on my own, I'd still be bumbling around and picking cactus spines out of myself.

Actually, I am. 

Over the last couple months, a great deal has been brought to my attention. First, the Cistercians, which I think now is not where God is drawing me;  rather, I think He has used them to get my attention. As of this point, I don't know if I'll be visiting them; in fact, I highly doubt it. 

In this ascent, the view has changed. I see something else, something I'd seen before, but disregarded because they didn't fit "my" definition of what "I" thought I wanted. 

I was asking the wrong questions.  I was still looking at religious life through the lens of my own will. 

The ONLY way to approach Vocation is through the view of God;  what does HE see?

So God invited me to ascend a bit further so that I could see the highways and valleys and mountains in a way closer to that of His view. 

As I have turned to look out over the valley in the company of Our Lord, I've not only seen where I've been, but the signs that have directed me to Him. I've seen more of who I am and where, from the very beginning, He has directed me to be.  Who He is directing me to become. 

At this time, I'm not going to go into the details, but a great deal has come into my understanding in recent weeks, and I've taken action to further where I believe God is drawing me. 

As of this point, I believe I was mistaken to think I was called to the Dominican Order.  While I'll always have a special place in my heart for the Dominicans, I now believe they have simply adopted me in order to guide me to my destination. 

One of my favorite works of art is Fra. Angelico's depiction of Father Dominic kneeling at the foot of the Cross, the blood of Christ dripping upon him, both in shared anguish.  

In fact...ALL of my favorite works of art involve an aspect of the Passion of Christ;  in my bedroom, each day I wake up and look upon the Agony in the Garden.  Each night I sleep under the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, an icon that points to the Passion of Christ.  Every time I pass a crucifix, I cannot help but stop and stare at it, taken in, wanting to remain in its shadow. 

My spirituality isn't Dominican, or Fransciscan, Carmelite or Salesian. While I admire the Benedictines and embrace the Augustinians, in reality, none of them are home to me, although ALL, in a way contribute, and, in turn, my spirituality is a part of theirs as well. 

In looking over everything that surrounds me, everything that attracts me to Christ, I have to admit that one of the communities that first got my attention is back on the radar screen.  And I never thought I'd truly consider them; not because of who they are, but because of the discipline of their lives. 

I believe that I may be a Passionist.  

It's throughout my blog; woven into my writings, into what I think, how I think, how I pray.  

When I first saw the Passionists, I rejected them, thinking, "Oh, they're cloistered", and I didn't want  to be so. 

But a Vocation is not about "me". It's about God. As I have climbed this mountain, I've come to realize my only focus needs to be on Christ Himself. Nothing else. It doesn't matter what I think I want. I've done so much, and truly, nearly everything I've wanted to do. 

My only regret, if I were to go into an enclosure right now, is that I haven't had the opportunity to travel to the Holy Land.  I want to physically walk through the life of Christ, and to travel along the Via Dolorosa, and kneel at the site of His Crucifixion.  

Otherwise, this world has nothing for me.  This world has never loved me, nor do I want it to. 

The biggest question I've had to ask myself is this:  Where can I find Christ?  

At the Cross.  

And He bids me to follow Him. 

So be it, if this is truly what He wills.