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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

More Wisdom from St. Catherine of Siena

Every quote is taken from Dialogue:

"I wish also that thou shouldest know that every virtue is obtained by means of thy neighbour, and likewise, every defect..."


"I have told thee how all sins are accomplished by means of thy neighbour...Self-love, which destroys charity and affection towards the neighbour, is the principle and foundation of every evil. All scandals, hatred, cruelty, and every sort of trouble proceed from this perverse root of self-love, which has poisoned the entire world..."


"Now I wish to tell thee further, that a man proves his patience on his neighbor, when he receives injuries from him. Similarly, he proves his humility on a proud man, his faith on an infidel, his true hope on one who despairs, his justice on the unjust, his kidness on the cruel, his gentleness and benignity on the irascible."

"Wherefore, learn, that, in many cases I give one virtue, to be as it were the chief of the one I will give principally love, to another justice, to another humility, to one a lively faith, to another prudence or temperance, or patience, to another fortitude. These, and many other virtues, I place, indifferently, in the happens, therefore, that the particular one so placed in the soul becomes the principal object of its virtue; the soul disposing herself, for her chief conversation, to this rather than to the other virtues, and by the effect of this virtue, the soul draws to herself all the other virtues, which...are all bound together in the affection of love.

I have not placed them all in one soul, in order that man should, perforce, have material for love of his fellow."

"Therefore I give My servants hunger and desire for My honour, and the salvation of souls, so that, constrained by their tears, I may mitigate the fury of My Divine Justice. Take, therefore, thy tears and thy sweat, drawn from the fountain of My divine love, and, with them, wash the face of My spouse.

I promise thee, that, by this means, her beauty will be restored to her, not by the knife nor by cruelty, but peacefully, by humble and continued prayer, by the sweat and the tears shed by the fiery desire of My servants, and thus will I fulfill thy desire if thou, on thy part, endure much, casting the light of thy patience into the darkness of perverse man, not fearing the world's persecutions, for I will protect thee, and My Providence shall never fail thee in the slightest need."

St. Catherine of Siena.... PRAY FOR US!  

St. Catherine of Siena on the Priesthood

I'm not going to give you a bio of St. Catherine of Siena, because today, you can find that bio on almost every other blog, and they all link to the sources from which they are posting. There is no shortage of information on this dear Saint!  

Last Ocbober, I read The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena for a class, and found this to be a life-changing book. It's one that needs to be read over and over again, much like St. Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life or Thomas a' Kempis' Imitation of Christ.   That said, it's not one I would recommend to someone not familiar with Catholic Doctrine, for while it is a mystical book, it is very doctrinal and manifests a theological depth that is astonishing, especially considering that the one who wrote it could not possibly have known any of these things.  

For those who are not familiar with the book, it is what it claims to be: a dialogue.  In this case, it is a dialogue between God the Father and the Saint, and as such, there's no real systematic format.  She alternately praises God and poses questions, which the Father answers.  One question asked had to do with the dignity of priests; and in fact, there are a series of questions pertaining to the Priesthood. I will only cite this passage, in the hopes it will inspire you to take up this work and read it for yourself in its entirety:
I have told thee all this, dearest daughter, that thou mayest the better recognise the dignity to which I have called My ministers, so that thy grief at their miseries may be more intense.  If they themselves considered their own dignity they would not be in the darkness of mortal sin, or defile the face of their soul.  They would not only see their offences against Me, but also, that, if they gave their bodies to be burned, they would not repay the tremendous grace and favour which they have received, inasmuch as no greater dignity exists in this life.  They are My anointed ones, and I call them My Christs, because I have given them the office of administering Me to you, and have placed them like fragrant flowers in the mystical body of the holy Church.  The angel himself has no such dignity, for I have given it to those men whom I have chosen for My ministers, and whom I have appointed as earthly angels in this life.  In all souls I demand purity and charity, that they should love Me and their neighbour, helping him by the ministration of prayer, as I said to thee in another place. But far more do I demand purity in My ministers, and love towards Me, and towards their fellow-creatures, administering to them the Body and Blood of My only-begotten Son, with the fire of charity, and a hunger for the salvation of souls, for the glory and honour of My Name. 

~  Dialogue,  p. 239-240

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Who Wants to be a Trollbuster?

Thanks to my dear friend Sr. Mary, I now have a badge to display, and maybe having it will force me to actually write a commenting policy.  

Admittedly, I don't typically have a troll problem because most of what I write isn't polemical, and if it is, I often take it down because it just isn't worth it it keep up. 

HOWEVER, sometimes we all have problems with these little beasts, and so, now we have an image to use to provide fair warning to those who like to attack and run.  

(BTW:  can anyone name that movie?) 

Goin' on a Troll Hunt!

I'm not afraid!

I deleted a troll this morning.  I gotta tellya, I LOVE the smell of trolls in the morning!  It really gets the blood moving!

What's a troll?  A person (I'm assuming personhood here for the sake of charity) who crawls around the internet looking for bloggers or writers with whom to disagree. And then they spout off fun accusations without signing their name so that the author can't respond. 

Now, the one this morning wasn't too bad, and ironically, I would have maybe let it stand if there had been a name attached.  That troll accused me of having an attitude of superiority, closed-midedness, and pride.  

Those, you understand, are the default attacks of a typical liberal. (Not the nice Liberals I addressed a couple posts ago. I'm talking about the raging liberals who are trying to stifle free speech.)  

So, let's break this apart a little:   I have an attitude of superiority.   OK, that's probably true, because of course, this is my blog. And as I write, I'm taking a certain position and creating an "argument" for that position.  But is that superiority, or simply choosing a side and sticking to it?   Hmm.....I'm sure to anyone who disagrees with me, it must look like an attitude of superiority. 

Closed-midedness:  Oh, that one is easy.  Yes. I'm closed-mided. Why?  Because I'm faithful to what the Church teaches and I'm not open to suffering fools who can't be bothered to do anything other than attack.  Buh-bye. 

Pride:  Sure.  But I'm no more prideful than a spineless troll who can't be bothered to actually say something intelligent.  Accusations are just fine, but those who fire away and run are nothing but cowards, and the root of cowardice is pride.  

We've all run into trolls. My favorite troll comment is actually still in existence on my blog;  that person (again, assuming personhood) said that they hoped I would die in a car wreck as punishment for advocating an archaic and closed-minded religion.  Oooh!  There's that word again! 

Here's the thing;  I allow anonymous comments because MOST people who visit my blog, even if they disagree with something I've said, either sign a name at the bottom of their comment or are kind enough to provide some kind of rational discourse.   A troll, however, doesn't have an argument. They simply disagree and instead of actually using the intellect God gave them, they make accusations, and because they know they're being fools, they don't sign their names. 

The reality is that the internet medium invites this kind of thing, whether we like it or not.  I actually EXPECT people to disagree with me from time to time.  However, the fact is that some people (some liberals) don't like it when someone takes a position and holds on to it.  It offends their sensibilities. No doubt these people go around forcing people to "tolerate" all sorts of things, but when someone doesn't cater to their pet ideas, they go into attack snark mode and morph into a troll in hopes someone will be chastized enough to completely reverse their position.  

The idea they could actually enter into a discussion and try to rationally make their own case apparently doesn't occur to them. Nor do they care.  It is not in the nature of a troll to understand what being "open-minded" means, for their minds are so open all the grey matter has leaked out.   It is not in the nature of a troll to be rational.  It is not in the nature of a troll to have a spine.  They must be amoebas. 

Here we don't suffer amoebas, trolls, or fools.  Those who can't disagree without going on the attack don't get to stay.  Even people who agree with me, if they attack others, also don't get to stay.  As a budding Thomist, rationality needs to rule.  

It seems that I will have to formulate my own commenting policy, although I don't know that it will really make a difference.  Trolls, what do you think?

Oh, right. You don't. You just attack.  Go ahead. I'm ready to delete you.  

UPDATE!  I just had a COMPLETELY BRILLIANT IDEA!   However, I need someone who can photoshop to create the image.   It's a new group, not limited to Catholic bloggers, but any blogger:    TROLLBUSTERS!   Our motto?  "We're ready to delete you!"    Do I have any talented readers who would like to create the image?  

Monday, April 27, 2009

Liberals and Vocations

Last year, I went to a training function through the Archdiocese, and found myself seated at the same table of a very nice woman who happened to be a DRE responsible for the formation of young souls. 

The topic of Vocations arose, as at the same table was a man from a parish which had been left by a friend of mine who had gone from DRE to cloistered nun.  

Naturally, the connection caused us to discuss Vocations in the Church, and the DRE, the nice lady from the early baby-boomer era asked, "Do women actually DO that these days?"

She was completely flummoxed.  Her only experience with Vocations were the declining statistics and dying communities that happened to share the same hair color.  Boys weren't becoming Priests, girls were too "empowered" to bother entering religious communities. 

She'd never heard of the Nashville Dominicans, the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, or the LA Carmelites. She didn't know about the Sisters of Life or the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. The idea that women were not only entering into religious life in DROVES, but were doing so in favor of faithfulness to the Magisterium, in favor of the Holy Habit, and, in favor of the cloister in some cases was a moment of complete amazement.  

She didn't know it was happening. Her entire perception of the Church was that it was dying.  In her experience, there WAS no life.  

I guess that's not too surprising.  

Recently I had a conversation with a "Liberal Catholic" regarding the topic of Vocations.  This person is faithful to the teachings of the Church, but as the other "Liberals" I described in the previous post, she maintains a foot in the secular/political world, and views the Church through this perspective. 

She was familiar with the current process of discernment, in that women (and men) who enter religious life or seminary are not making a permanent decision from the beginning. She knew it took years to take permanent vows. 

Her position is the one that flummoxed ME, for I couldn't really fathom it. 

She said that the Church should change with the culture that doesn't understand permanency, and instead, should make Vocations according to contract.  Five years, maybe. 

She said that she'd be willing to be a nun for 5 years and give that time to the Church, just as she'd be willing to give that time to the Peace Corps.  

I admit, I was so amazed the rest of my conversation was nearly incoherent.  Not in anger, but confusion.  I mean...WHAT?!

She continued in this tack. 

When I had time to settle down and think about it and how to respond, I realized that at her core, she didn't understand what the Church is and remains. She didn't understand the meaning of Vocation.  Which makes sense;  for, as a person who defines herself as a "Liberal Catholic", she would be looking at Vocation through the same cloudy goggles through which she views the rest of the Church, and the rest of the world. 

She has a default position of sympathy for those who don't understand (or even desire) permanency.

And this is so troubling, for our very nature, our very souls, draw us into permanency with our Creator.  Everything we do on earth is ordered towards this end, but we have to cooperate with it.  To do or believe otherwise is disordered.  We are ordered to perfection;  not dischord.  

A lack of permanency is by definition dischord.  

The fact is that the process within a religious community is ordered towards permanency; if it was not, there would be NO Vocations.  We'd see in religious life what we see in marriage. 

As courtship is ordered towards marriage, so is the postulancy and novitiate ordered towards permanent vows. 

Oh, wait. That's the problem.  (Please note that what follows is NOT the position of the person with whom I was speaking.  It is my own musing.)

Look at this through political eyes;  Marriage is no longer seen as a permanent sacramental union. It is seen as a governmental contract for the mutual benefit of better taxes. Oh, and if the couple chooses to stop using dangerous chemicals and environmentally-unfriendly plastic rubbers to prevent them, then it might be beneficial for the raising of children. Who can, actually, be born of a Dish named Petrie and dessimanated and disposed of for embryonic research purposes and re-named "Dolly".  The Matrix come to life.  

I guess I can understand the attitude, given that perspective.  

For if your view of the world is one of hedonism and impermanence, then why WOULDN'T you look at religious life in the same way you view marriage?  

I think most couples these days sign prenuptual agreements, for they tend to assume from the beginning that their marriage won't last. They live together before marriage, for why buy the cow when the milk can be sampled for free?  Why not sample the milk of a TON of cows?  Why does it need to involve love, or sacrifice?  Who needs children? 

Speaking as a woman who has been treated as a cow...why bother to pay for a ring and take a risk on someone who might not be "sexually compatible"?   Give her chemicals!  Try out her paces!  Who cares if the chemicals might kill her, or the paces aren't to HIS liking?  It's all in discernment, isn't it?  

And if you don't like the cow, kill the calf so that there will be none like her...or you.  

So much for permanence. 

Why can't religious life be the same? 


Because, like marriage  is supposed to be, it is ordered towards permanence.  A religious vocation isn't about building bridges over the River Kwai. 

It isn't about heading down to Guatemala for a few years to give Avian Flu shots to orphans. 

It isn't about going to Africa to fight AIDS.  Or to China to fight illiteracy.  

Those are all very important things, but they can be done with a limited committment. They are acts of mercy that belong to this world, and remain in this world, all of which honor the dignity of the human person both body and soul, for all are children of God. 

But it's not a Vocation to give 5 years of one's life to a charitable act, or even to prayer.  To trivialize a vocation as such is to ignore the import of the sacrifice of one's life. Such an idea is a trivialization of Christ. 

Are we not to be like Christ in all that we do?  And did He NOT experience a complete immolation on the altar of the Cross?  Are we not to do the same?  

The process of discernment alone should rule out those who are looking for temporary gratification.  If that's what you desire...then find a program that gratifies that desire.  It's a worthy cause, and a needed sacrifice especially in a world such as ours that doesn't tend to care for one's neighbor. 

But don't call it a Vocation, and don't try to make a Vocation match a temporary volunteer experience. 

It's not the same thing.  

For those not familiar with the process of Vocational discernment to a religious community:

Step 1:  Aspirancy  - 3 months living with the given community (this may not be a step of all commuinities)

Step 2:  Postulancy:   6 months to a year.  Some wear a veil during this time, some don't.  

Step 3:   Novitiate:   6 months to a year, or more.  This is where they take the habit, white veil but don't take vows.  

Step 4.  Canonical Novitiate - from observation, some cont. to wear a white veil, some change to black.  2nd year novitiate

Step 5.  Temporary vows - 1-3 years

Step 6:  after very careful discernment, permanent vows. 

Please note... the timing changes according to community, but it's NEVER permanent from the beginning. Thus someone can enter with reservations and leave, or enter with reservations...and realize it's home.  The systems is designed for EVERYONE who MIGHT be experiencing a call to that community. 


I find it completely astonishing that someone who is familiar with this process would suggest that it be changed, and allow for people to enter under a contract; for five years, for example.  

As it is, that's already happening.  That's what the aspirancy, postulancy, and novitiate are for. Never mind temporary vows.  

Further, the way it happens isn't ordered to the WORLD as would be a contract, but to GOD, which is a permanent committment.   

Maybe I'm Old Fashioned. Maybe I'm one of the few who believes in purity and permanency. It wouldn't be the last time I've been ridiculed for such a romantic idea. 

When I dated my last boyfriend, I held out that I was  hoping for marriage.  A longtime friend of his, another woman, also single, said, "It's nice that you can believe in those things, but it's unrealistic."

She laughed at me.  To be looking for a husband...permanently.  (As an aside...she's the same person who told me my "intended" didn't want to break up with me because he thought I'd have a hard time finding someone else.  No wonder she didn't belive in permanence. And why I gave up on it and him. And haven't dated since.)  

And even now, the world laughs, when we as Catholics look for permanency in Vocation, whether through Marriage, the Priesthood or Religious Life. No matter what we've suffered.  

There are those who think the Sacrament of Marriage should be a temporary contract. 

To follow that logic, maybe there would be more married couples if we let them marry only for a contract of five years. At least that way, we'd have fewer divorces.  

Maybe we'd have more priests if we could just ask for a committment of five years; and then, if they sucked at it, at least his people would only have to suffer temporarily. 

Maybe if we have Religious enter for only 5 years, we can get rid of discernment and more people would do it.  

Maybe if the Church was more like political organizations of the world an operated according to democracy and changed according to the philosophy of John Locke, we'd be in a better place. 



...Maybe if we actually followed the eternal teachings of the Church we'd reap more souls and have more workers for the harvest.   Maybe if parishes stayed faithful to the GIRM and read the SCRIPTURES instead of 60's era poetry there would be more who would find a faith wiling to die for. 

Maybe if ecclesiastical communities that claim to be Catholic would avoid the heretical works of idiotic authors who write easily refuted works such as "Misqoting Jesus" would choose the wisdom of the Church Fathers instead...there would be more Vocations. 

I'm not willing to die for a faith that requires only 5 years from me.  I might give that to a government, but to God...I'd rather give my life.  After all, He gave me His.  

It's not that I don't understand. I'm from a divorced, alcoholic family, and the other parent is bipolar.  Believe me...I know about committment avoidance.  I can understand anyone who wants to reserve something, because psychologically, they (we) need a safety net.  We're damaged in that way. 

But that's not what God wants. He knows our past. He knows everything. And He asks for it all. That's what Vocation  is all about.  All of us...damaged, and hopeful and reserved...all of it.   

If someone asked me for 5 years of my life, I'd refuse. I don't have 5 years to give. At this point, it's my life...or nothing.  If my life isn't called for, then YOU'RE not worth my time.  I'll look elsewhere. 

I may not have a Vocation. But I'm at the point where I'm ready to committ, right now. I'm tired of looking. Not 2 years, not 5 years.  NOW!  Permanent!  

Because if Our Lord is not worth my life...nothing is.  And if He doesn't want it...who does?  

Give me a Vocation or Give Me Death.  I can't survive this limbo anymore.

"Liberal" Catholics

This is one of my "musing out loud" posts, so please bear with me. I'm not really sure where it's going but I've got the itch to write and the itch to muse, so it's better to let this tiger from its cage. 

The more I learn about the Church (via Ecclesiology), the more the political terms "Conservative" and "Liberal" become like spiritual nails on a chalkboard. They're completely inappropriate, for one can only fall into two categories as a Catholic:  Faithful (Orthodox) or Unfaithful (Heterodox).  Period. One is either in line with Church teachings, or one is not.  

That's not to say that one cannot ask questions or have personal reservations arising from a lack of understanding, so long as that person, with integrity, remains obedient to the teachings and truly seeks to understand them.  

What does "Liberal" mean?  

Recently I've spoken with a few people who claim to be "Liberal Catholics", and because of some interactions and definitions I've seen by commenters online or in real life, before I leap onto the "You're a Heretic!" bandwagon that seems to be so popular among certain groups of Catholics, I think it might be important to figure out what the term "Liberal" really means. 

One person was a commenter on another blog, and took the blog author to task on his own ground. The blog's author claims to be a "Liberal" and a "Progressive", while denouncing pretty much EVERYTHING that makes up the Church.  The "Liberal Catholic" commenter took care to define his terms, explaining that he was all the things personally that the blog's author claimed to be, but the commenter said he was faithful to the Church, respected the teaching authority of the Magisterium on faith and morals, the importance of the sacraments, the respective positions of the clergy and laity, etc.  I was amazed.  In what he was saying, he was obviously very...orthodox!  I wanted to meet that man and shake his hand for what he said, which he stated firmly, in charity, and through logical definition of terms.   

I've met other people who claim to be "Liberal" but haven't been so forthcoming on their definition of what that means. Some people define themselves as "Liberal" not in relation to the teachings of the Church, but in relation to the Liturgy.  These people would take the place of a child about to be aborted, they are supportive of their clergy, they live and breathe Catholicism and can pray circles around people who claim to be holy and devoted but are actually just mean and spiteful in their otherwise solid knowledge of the Church.  These "Liturgical Liberals" are "liberal" in only one area, in that they have an allergy to anything remotely Latin, although they'll fall all over themselves to attend and support Masses in every other language under the sun, even Klingon.  

The liturgical liberals  have no problem, for example,  with the Mass at the LA Educational Conference (the videos of which send the rest of us into paroxysms of a thousand brutal deaths), for they don't see a problem with songs that glorify the people while ignoring God. They don't see a problem with liturgical dancers in a culture in which this is not the norm (and is actually not permitted).  They've never actually READ the Vatican II documents, especially the one on the Liturgy, preferring to allow themselves to be deceived by people who gleefully tell them what the documents said. 

Never mind that the Novus Ordo as it is celebrated today doesn't even REMOTELY look like the Mass called for in Sacrosanctum Concilium.  But I digress.  Other documents have come along that have permitted most of what we see, and thus, Rome has spoken. But the, those changes should not be blamed on Vatican II, if we are to be truthful. 

And above all, we need to be truthful.  

Liberal is as liberal does

These examples have revealed to me a certain dichotomy in those to whom the label is often applied.  It seems that many who consider themselves to be "liberal" are actually faithful Catholics with questionable taste.  The last time I checked, bad taste isn't a sin.  And in fact, bad taste can be corrected, albeit in charity.

How does a wine snob help a redneck to appreciate anything other than Almaden White Zinfandel?  Through careful steps, one sweet wine to the next.  Perhaps to a better Rose', then to a Gwertztraminer, a Riesling, to a Chardonnay, to a Pinot Grigiot or Sauvignon Blanc. Then on to the Reds!  Start with light-bodied like a good Pinot Noir, moving through the Merlots to the Zins to the Cabs.      (Speaking through experience on this one..I was the redneck who had never had wine that didn't come from a box.)  

How does a Matador help a PETA  activist appreciate the art of bullfighting?   

Um...actually, I haven't figured that one out yet.  Yet the above is a bit more of the image of the infighting in the Church today, isn't it?    


A lot of these liturgical liberals aren't aware of the GIRM or the fact that the GIRM is, in fact, Canon Law, and MUST be obeyed.  If they KNEW something objectively defined was wrong, they'd be first in line to come into obedience, even if they disliked the facts.  

There is a downright nasty idea out there that anyone who claims to be a "Liberal Catholic" is willfully disobedient, willfully ignorant, mean, and out to wreck the Church.   That idea is completely unfair, completely uncharitable, and fully out of bounds for anyone claiming to be seeking holiness.  

As I've discovered, and cited above, many who claim to be "Liberal Catholics" are actually fully faithful to what the Church is and what she teaches, and perhaps is actually a bit more open than the rest of us about their favorite sins.  And about their confusion on what the Church is, and what she teaches.  

A Foot in Both Worlds

It is the general faithfulness of many of these "Liberal Catholics" that is a bit of a mystery to me, for on one hand, they profess what I profess and believe what I believe, bowing and kneeling to the same Jesus Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament.  They agree that contraception is wrong, they agree abortion is evil, they agree that the Church has no authority to ordain women, they agree that obedience to the Magisterium is important and more importantly, that Christ gave that authority to the Church. We agree that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, that the Holy Spirit guides and protects us, and that our Bishops are successors to the Apostles.  

Yet invariably, through conversation, their views come into expression and I've found that although they are faithful, they've been secularized, and thus...all of their views, even with regard to Faith, have been warped such that they can ONLY see through the glasses of democratic politics.  

THAT'S how they think they could vote for Obama with a clear conscience. For in their minds, they are rendering unto Caesar while rendering unto God what is God's. To them, it's perfectly logical.   

They stand with a foot in both worlds, leaning more on the secular side. Seeing the Church not through the eyes of the Church and the eyes of objective Truth, but through the eyes of the world.  In short...they are worldly.  

This is recognized in several ways, although I'll only mention a few here:

*  They believe that abortion is the brutal murder of an unborn child and believe that it is an objective evil.  However, because there are people of other beliefs in the world, they do not see that they have the right AND duty to state across the board that it is wrong, for doing so "offends" other beliefs.  They are so ad extra that they see the immoral beliefs of others as being superior to their own.  

*  They do not believe that we have the right and duty to bring our faith into the public square, for there are those who would disagree, and to state the objective Truth which we firmly believe is a scourge to others who do not share that belief and might be "harmed" in their own positions. Thus, preaching Christ to anyone who is not Christian, to them, is not in keeping with the virtue of charity.   They have true love confused with permissiveness. 

* Vocations - this one has me scratching my head a bit, so I'll have to explain this one in more depth in another post.  Suffice to say that just as they don't understand what the Church really IS because they won't take their foot out of the world long enough to find out, so they see ALL of the Sacraments, and Vocations as well.  Their fix for more Vocations is the position they insist on holding:  a foot belonging to Caesar, defining themselves as primarily political, and a foot belonging to the Church, to whom they claim they want to be faithful. 

And in the end, they are torn to pieces because neither position makes sense to either side. 

Now, this is one of those topics that can be inflammatory, and I'm not claiming to be objective about it;  this is my blog and I get to hold my own opinion, my own bias.  If you want biased objectivity, then go to MSM and let them lie to you.  I won't do that; I'm not a journalist and I think journalism as it's practiced today is soulless, cruel, and deceptive. 

That said, I'd be interested in hearing about my readers' observations on this issue, for clearly, the term "Liberal Catholic" even though it's improper, has to be understood from the perspective of the ones claiming the title.  We have to come to understand why they claim to be such, and if possible, if we can understand them, maybe we can help them shed the glasses of the world and see clearly the spikes on the fence they straddle.  

Draft of my commenting policy:  

If you comment, please keep your comments charitable. Humor is fine, no matter what your position, but I reserve the right to decide if someone is crossing a line.  You can even criticize me, for no doubt I've badly phrased something, and fully expect that even in writing this post I'm offending people.  I accept that.  That doesn't mean I'll change my position or wording because the fact is that some people are so thin-skinned a spring breeze is nearly a mortal wound to them. 

MIND YOU!  There are people who profess to be "Liberal Catholics" and are actually outright dissidents for they don't agree with ANYTHING the Church teaches, and in fact, their beliefs are outright heretical. For the purposes of this post, please ignore the Dissidents and in charity, please read what I'm actually stating about those who fit the definitions I am providing. Thank you. 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Light and Darkness, Bless the Lord

A week ago, a friend gave me a small tomato plant. I objected, considering that I only get sun for part of the day, and don't have a green thumb. She pointed  out that it was otherwise going to die anyway; why not see if it would bear fruit for me?  If it dies, no loss. 

So I took the plastic cup containing the plant and placed it in the window of my kitchen, planning to purchase potting soil and a much larger pot for it.  

It's been fascinating this week watching this little plant follow the sun.  As the rays land on it, it stretches upward to greet the light, soaking in as much as it can.  As the sun moves, so does the plant, straining to catch every little bit.  

A few years ago a friend who had been a florist told me that flourescent lights can be good for plants, so in a house that gets only partial sun, it may be a way to give the plants what they need.  
Due to this advice, I've been placing my dying aloe plants under the light, and the tomato plant as clos as I can get it.  (The large pot doesn't fit directly under the light).  The same phenomena has been happening as that little plant has been leaning hard over to absorb the light of the flourescent.  

At first I thought it was wilting, but when I looked more closely, I could see the movement was very much directed, very much a part of what this plant is all about.  It needs light to survive and grow.  

It's so ironic that when I got the plant, it was sunny and warm, but the rest of the week has been cold and rainy. Yesterday there was some sunlight, but not enough, and it was too cool to put the plant outside; besides, I fear the ducks and rabbits will attack it!  And so I've been doing my best to keep it alive, providing a source of light, even if that light is not ideal. 

Maybe it's providential that this plant has come into my possession.  Right now I'm in a sort of darkness, unable to see anything.  I can't even see the light that I know is there.  I have doubts about my faith, doubts about God, everything. I look around the shambles of my life and think, "Is this all there is?

Because if it is, this is totally not worth it. 

But I know...there has to be something. There has to be more.  And when I got to Mass, and Christ is lifted up, I can't deny that my heart burns within me, and even as I doubt, the other part of my tortured soul cries out "I believe!" 

This passing darkness doesn't mean anything.  It's just a shadow that has fallen over me, and sometimes in shadows our vision grows stronger and allows us to see even more. And sometimes it only seems like we're in darkness because the light of God is so blinding. 

I do not mean to compare this to St. John of the Cross's dark night; I have not achieved that level of holiness.  So many misunderstand the dark night; they think if they're depressed or sad or experiencing dryness in prayer, it's a dark night. They think if God is far from them, it's a dark night. 

No, it's not. 

St. John's dark night was FILLED with God. It wasn't a darkness; God was so close that he was blinded by the light. The dark night is filled with joy, not misery and depression.  

Right now, I am not experiencing joy.  It's not a dark night.   It's a passing shadow and from the depths of this shadow I am like that little plant, reaching for the light I know must be there, because if it's not, I would wither and die.  And that's not how this story ends.  

I really hope that plant doesn't die because right now I need a visible metaphor. 

And maybe stronger coffee. 
Night and days, bless the Lord
Light and darkness, bless the Lord
Lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord.

Alone At the Foot of the Cross

I have no vocation. 

It hit me last night that I'm running around looking for something that simply isn't there for me. There is no call.  I've been foolishly looking at my summer months of unemployment, looking for a job that will both allow me to pay my bills and maybe go visit a community.  On whose dime, I don't know. 

And I'm tired. I've done everything I can, I've been in contact with specific communities, I've tried to visit...nothing works out. And I certainly can't just leave the state when I haven't the gas money to even cross the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin!  

I was so excited to hear from the Passionists, but since then...nothing.  Someone I know who discerned them said they were quick on responses.  Apparently not for me.  

I have a theory:  there are an awful lot of permanently-single people out there.  Perhaps we were called to marriage, but the one God intended for us was aborted. 

The fact is that each soul that comes into being does so, called from eternity, to fulfill a certain mission within a certain vocation.  Unfortunately, through the widespread slaughter of innocents that has taken place in America alone since 1973, clearly those of us who have survived are left facing a void.  There's someone that's supposed to be in our lives...but isn't.  

Do you know one of the reasons divorce is so high?  People are getting married to those never intended for them.   They're seeking the consolation prize, and it's not working out for any of them.  

And maybe that's it. Maybe that's what God has been trying to get through to me.  Maybe His original intention was  for me to get married, but then Margaret Sanger came along and advocated his foul, bloody murder.  

Maybe my original sense was the true one; that I am called to be single.  I'm not interested in a "consolation prize".  Maybe it's my role to remain in isolation at the foot of the Cross, perpetually single, without a vocation.  Because that's a special kind of suffering, something to be offered in reparation for all the lives taken through abortion.  Tears to be shed for those so traumatized they can't cry on their own, but instead rage against the truth for fear they'll finally understand what they've done.   Begging for mercy for those who refuse to ask for themselves. Praying for a world that refuses to pray.  

I'm not interested in being a hermit. I looked into it.  Not interested. 

But for now, I'm going to stop hoping for a response that never comes, I'm going to stop trying to figure out how to visit a community when the reality is that I need to live my life as it is, not one that isn't waiting for me and doesn't seem to know I exist. 

Jesus is right here. He is present in my life. I can go to Mass every day, I can go to Adoration.  I don't need to don a habit and a veil and live with a bunch of other women in order to be holy.  I need to stand right here at the foot of the cross and offer up the misery of the world in the only way I know how. 

I'm sorry to be a disappointment to you.  But I've stated over and over again that even I don't know how this ends and you shouldn't assume you do know.  

Closing comments as I don't need or want advice. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


When people hear the word "scandal", they think of some bit of juicy titillating gossip about a political figure or celebrity, and enjoy the sense of feigned "shock" followed by the ripple effect of articles and photos and water cooler discussions brought up by the event which might not even be true.  

Our Canon Law professor told us last weekend that there are some canonists who don't understand the meaning of the word, and will argue that extramarital affairs and liturgical abuses don't cause scandal anymore becuase no one is surprised when those things happen.  In other words, those who are supposed to know better are defining "scandal" as "entertaining, exhilierating, titillating, shocking and newsworthy."  

What idiocy. 

Scandal is now, in the context of canon law and moral theology EXACTLY what it has ALWAYS been!  It is a stumbling block. 

Scandal is defined as something that leads others to sin.  That's why scandal itself is a sin. 

For example, if I take a youth group into a store and I steal a pack of gum, I've just caused scandal. Whether those kids know it or not, they've been scandalized because my action, coming from being a person who should be a moral leader, has now given legitimacy to the sin of theft. 

Does that mean they'll automatically go out and steal gum?  No. 

But I can think of times in my own life where people I looked to as a moral example did or said something wrong, and because they did so, it made me think the action was ok. And then I committed the same thing.  That doubles the sin;  not only did the person who gave example commit an objective sin, but by their example they led me to do the same.  That's scandal. 

Practical Application

I look around at certain "journalistic" rags (both religious and secular) and there, I read only scandal. Not because I'm tempted, but because others are. And THAT leads me to an entirely different sin of calumny and detraction against the reporters, the writers, the average uniformed "Catholics" writing letters fraught with heretical ideas. 


I look around at the blogosphere which at least is honest in that the individual authors tend to proclaim their bias and don't pretend to be "balanced" - but there is much scandal there as well. For there are more than a few blogs I can no longer follow because all I see there is pride, calumny, detraction, anger, attack...etc.  All things that are not properties belonging to holiness.  

If I can't look at someone or their writings and see holiness, then it's time to walk away. Because if I give in to taking up anger and detraction, well, that's a scandal. 

It means that the person writing those inflammatory words is causing scandal, because by his or her example, I am being led into the same sin they possess.  I've found over and over again that when I read snark, I become snarky, and if I get snarky and make it public, it makes other people snarky, too. 

That's scandal.  

Now, there is a line; we CAN be critical of things that are unjust or need to be corrected.  Pointing out a public wrong doesn't automatically mean the person commenting on it is causing scandal or adding to it. It's all in how it's done.

That's why truth in journalism is so important, why truth in blogging is so important.  We're human. We're going to be biased, we're going to have opinions, and often we are going to be quite passionate about those opinions. But that doesn't mean we have to cause scandal in our passion.  

I've had a lot of posts that have "magically" disappeared over the last few years, and I'll have more as I go through my archives, or as I write when maybe I'm a bit too inflamed to do so.  

The reason many of those posts disappear is because I judge them to be scandalous;  either because they contain misinformation which has come to my attention, they are uncharitable (thus scandalous), or maybe they are simply mean-spirited.  

The example we set as Christians makes a difference.  If X person who claims to be a good Christian has this biting, snarky commentary, it must be ok to respond in that manner and poke fun at someone who is ignorant of our beliefs.  If popular X person gives an example of ridicule, then it becomes ok for the rest of us to follow that example, because...hey!  X person is popular so his or her opinion must mean a great deal more and if they do it, then we can, too. 

False logic.

The fact is that someone who exhibits the above behaviors is causing scandal; they are leading others into sin. 

And yes, I've done it.  

I do it all the time, and I am sincerely sorry for leading others to enter with me into such sins.  I pray God have mercy on those I mislead and instead place their punishment upon my shoulders, which would be just.  If I have scandalized, it is I who should suffer for it, for I have a greater duty. 

Sometimes it's hard, though, to know when someone has caused scandal.  Snarky humor can be fun, and it can be innocent and poking humorous criticism at serious issues may be a good way to bring correction.  Yet, so often, there is a mean spirit involved.  We have to evaluate...are we making a personal attack?  Are we singling anyone out?  

Is the person we are reading being a jerk or is their humor honest and innocent of malicious intent? Are they leading us to denigrate something or someone in an unjust manner? In an unholy manner?  

What response does their example cause in us?  Does it incite us to our own rants, make us dredge up old offenses and anger...or do we simply laugh at truthful humor and move on? 

Is there darkness in our laughter or is there the guilty pleasure that comes with that which is illicit if not fatal?  

In looking at all this,  in pondering it, I consider my "ranting" posts, and I wonder at whether charity is present.  There are some rants I've written out of pure humor, albeit with a biting style.  And even though I don't feel anger or bitterness, often that does come through because it's truly the way, culturally, I've learned to express critical humor.  And that, even without intent, may be scandalous. 

I wonder at my previous posts, knowing that it's important to address what is problematic, but I knew that there would be those who might arrive and begin to air their own liturgical complaints.  That has happened...the keyword "liturgy" always attracts people with grievances.

Is that scandalous?  Am I responsible for the most bitter among us who are in need of healing but can't seem to find their way out of the darkness so that healing can take place?  Am I making their situation worse?  

These are things I consider. 

Recently, at Crescat's blog, I received a nomination for "Best Spiritual Treat Blog" and I wonder if I should decline the nomination itself.  

I love what she's doing, I love her blog, and I've recommended her to others.  I love her humor, her truthfulness of who she is and who  she claims to be, and totally identify with her. can I be a spiritual treat if I'm as snarky as the next guy?  How does that lead others to holiness?

The reality is that here, I don't have a specific agenda.  Maybe evangelization, maybe just sharing my faith because I know there are others who need to know they are not alone.  Maybe revealing moments of piety juxtaposed with the majority moments of sin.  

I'm not a "Spiritual Treat".  You're not going to come to my blog and see a perfect exudation of holiness.  It simply isn't present.  I'm just a sinner in need of salvation. Awards won't change that fact.  If someone thinks I'm anything close to a Saint, well...they've never met one.  I spend most of my time causing scandal, actually. 

And if I could truly see the impact of my life on others, I'd drop in my tracks and die. For I've lead far more souls into sin than I have been able to point to salvation.  And as for myself...I wallow in sin.  It covers me. The second I leave the Confessional, I'm back to my regular charms, which aren't charming at all.  

My biggest hobby, truthfully speaking:  offending God. I go out of my way to offend Him, and then say to myself that it wasn't my intent, no matter how willful my act.  

Please don't load my combox with a bunch of platitudes of how great I art.  I don't need that nor want it. I NEED to understand the harm I've caused, I NEED to see very clearly the effects of sin, both in recognizing how others have lead ME to sin, and how I have lead others. That's important. 

We ALL cause scandal. All of us. We all lead others to sin. 

But my hope is here:  God NEVER reveals sin without revealing His mercy.  

I weep in gratitude that God can see my scandalous life and offer me His pierced hand anyway, so that when He is raised up, I am drawn to Him.  

Therin is the scandal of the Cross. The ultimate juxtaposition.  Such an event that makes us see how so great a fault that we possess can warrant us so great a Redeemer is beyond our comprehension.  

The fact is that Jesus Christ reaches His bloody hands out to us, in forgiveness and sacrificial love, bringing our scandalized souls into Him through scandal personified.  

Therin is His Glory. 

I have nothing to offer Him but scandal, for I not only sin, but lead others to do so as well. When I approach Him, I bring not only myself, but all those who have been wounded or killed by my actions.  


And then He is so generous that at the very revelation of my sorrow, He erases my guilt and restores me to His side, hiding me within His Most Sacred Heart. 

And we are all scandalized by such great generosity. 

Truly...none of us understands scandal, for it is through scandal that we fall, and in gratitude of scandal that we might enjoy eternal life with Christ.  

I will go on, pondering scandal, for even now, I don't understand...
Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner....

Here We Go Again...

I've decided to reiterate my previous point and strip all the theatrics so that you can clearly see the actual point being made. Sometimes theatrics are entertaining, but if it's overdone, it obscures the importance of the real message.  


If you are invited to someone's home and you're told that you'll be eating steak, you expect a nice steak with all the trimmings.  Even if the trimmings aren't perfect, you expect them.  What you get is pureed steak in a plastic cup. It tastes like steak, and you partake in it, but when you leave, you say to yourself or others with you, "Well, it was still steak, right?  What's the difference how it's served?"   

Same thing: 

When you go to Mass, you expect a proper Mass, celebrated according to the GIRM, with all the proper elements, nothing added, nothing removed. A proper Mass.  Because that's your RIGHT as a Catholic, is to experience the Sacraments with the proper and reverent preparation.  

But if you're leaving Mass and you're saying to people, "But, Christ was still present, right?  The Sacrament was valid, right?  It's still Jesus...", well, then something is wrong.  

As our professor pointed out, NEVER in the 2,000+ year history of the Catholic Church have statements like that EVER been made.  That should make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.  

If you're making those comments either after your own experience or in a response to a legitimate complaint of someone else who maybe realized the music had heretical lyrics, well...then what you've just had is the spiritual equivalent of a pureed porterhouse steak.  

In making those comments, you're recognizing a deprivation.  Something was supposed to be there...but isn't. 

Is the essence there?  Sure. the case of the dinner, did you really get the entire experience of the steak and what it's really about?  No. 

In the Mass that you leave trying to justify whether Christ was really present or not...what you're saying is that somehow, you've been deprived of what the Mass is and you didn't get to experience the entire reality of the Paschal Mystery. Even if what you did receive was truly the Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity of Christ.   Somehow, you were deprived of some of the grace that SHOULD have been available to you because someone didn't do their job to properly dispose you and everyone else there to be sure you all really understood what this great Mystery is all about.  

Was it valid?  Sure. But were you able to fully experience all the available graces, or was a GIRM-breaking Mass celebrated that deprived you of the full experience?  Pureed steak. 

Don't settle for pureed steak.  

That's all I'm sayin'.  

Oh, and if you're a priest..the Mass doesn't belong to you. It belongs to the Church. Don't serve your children pureed steak when you can provide them with a perfectly grilled porterhouse and all the things that make that porterhouse stand out that much more.  

And everyone...pray for priests, especially those who might not have been properly formed.  Be reverent towards them remembering who they represent, but remember you have the right in charity to make your needs known.  Just don't be a jerk about it. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


This weekend at class, our professor gave us a GREAT analogy, after he pointed out to us that something is happening today that has never happened in the HISTORY of the Church.

When there is something NEW after over 2,000 years, well, maybe we should take notice. After all, most heresies are not actually new and innovative; they're just rehashings of of the old tired stuff like gnosticism and pelagianism.

What am I talking about?

Is there anyone who HASN'T heard the following phrases or related variations?

"It's still the Mass."

"It's still valid".

"Jesus is still present."  
"No matter what happens, it's still the Lord."

 Can you BELIEVE the excuses given for what people CLEARLY know is wrong?

Our professor wasn't attacking liturgy. He wasn't attacking anyone. He was only pointing out a discrepancy that we've all been lulled to accept.  

I'm the one making it polemical. He didn't. But it's my blog, and I feel like being controversial, and I don't have to worry about accreditation, so here I go: The Rant is ON! 

I don't know about the rest of you, but it seems that whenever someone politely and specifically points out issues that are contrary to the GIRM or, maybe to music being used in the Mass that is not liturgical or maybe is outright heretical, someone comes along and says, "'s still Jesus on the altar."  

(Note the prefacing and self-effacing term..."but".  "But" is ALWAYS  a term that denotes a change in direction.  And in this case, it's directing a change against faithfulness to Canon Law, which is what the GIRM IS!) 

Moving on...

Maybe you're having a polite (really!) discussion with someone about the fact that Haugen-Haas-S-guy is the dominating voice of God in the liturgy these days, even though their music, at best, only paraphrases the psalms and often contradicts Catholic theology outright.  And maybe you grumble a little that "Soon and Very Soon", which is a Protestant hymn which does not recognize the True Presence of Christ in the tabernacle at ALL TIMES is actually fully improper for a post-Communion "meditation", and that same dear misinformed soul (or one just like it in bad formation) pipes up, "But...the Mass is still valid", and too often that same dear person is still tapping their foot to the soulful bongos which continue to ring in an unbearable ear worm

[As an aside...some complain about "All Are Welcome".  At least they're not hearing "Soon and Very Soon" in their nightmares as I am.  When did I become a Southern Baptist?]

Or maybe you've just left the LA Religious Conference, replete with scantily-clad liturgical dancers that have no relevance to any part of American culture (which includes ALL cultures of the world), and you've listened to speakers of other races than yours complain that the Mass isn't relevant to their middle-eastern ancestry. And maybe you're Vietnamese and you're astounded because...the Roman liturgy ISN'T an American event, but AROSE out of the Middle East/Africa and if anyone has a right to complain about relevance, it's the Anglos who aren't included in its history. 

But we Anglos don't complain, do we?  

Because we're the only ones without a voice and we watch with irony while people of African and other descent who've been raised in a victim culture deconstruct the very liturgy that arose out of their own ancestral traditions but found a home in Rome, anyway. 

So much for oppression.  The Church loved the people to the south of Rome so much that she made their liturgical practices her standard.    (It's also very Franciscan, as it was the Franciscan form itself that was standardized while all other rites were suppressed in the interest of unification in liturgy in the Latin Rite.)  

Welcome to America. Land of the Historically-Idiotic, Home of the Free-to-Deconstruct what was never a problem in the first place. 

Let me offer you our professor's synopsis of the liturgical problem we face in this age, all across the world. For indeed, this is not an American problem, but one that infects and poisons us across the world.  Maybe you'll have to substitute the metaphor, but you'll see the point. 

*(Important Disclaimer:  I've embellished on the original analogy because it's more fun and it gives me the ability to reach a wider audience.)   

The Event at the Faithful and Joyful Ranch

Someone happens by your house, says "Peace be with you" and hands you a porterhouse steak.  Now, this is a PRIME piece of meat, perfectly marbled and aged. This thing could actually feed your entire family, and dang, you've been STARVING in the last week.  This is a GIFT!

So as you behold this wondrous, amazing cut from a very happy steer which gave its life to feed your starving family, you realize that what you have there in your hot callused hands is an EVENT. 

So you set out to make it happen.  You prep the grill with the right amount of charcoal, maybe even add hickory chips to make the smoke more aromatic and impart a certain importance to what is being offered.  

You choose the choicest vegetables from the field or the garden or the grocery store. Because only the right greens and corn is going to be proper for this feast.  And then you choose the most perfect wine, maybe a deep ruby Zinfandel or even a Shiraz or Sirah.  

Everything goes into this steak.  Because the accoutrement's that surround it point to its goodness and help you enjoy it more. Sure, it's a lot of work to put all of this together, and you need the help of your family to make sure the corn is soaked and then grilled or maybe boiled to perfection, and the greens are garlic-steamed just right, and maybe the potatoes are on the heat in the coals for just the right amount of time so that their skins are crispy but the inside is soft but not too much so. 

And all of this leads up to the main event, which is the porterhouse.  And you put that juicy perfectly-raised hunk of muscle on the iron and dang it if you don't fall to your knees in anticipation of what this is about to become!  

And then you take it off the grill and cut it and serve it to your family, and all of you rejoice in awe at this incredible event that is the Porterhouse steak. 

Or...Back at the Backwards Ranch where the Left Hand makes a Y

Someone happens by your house, says "Peace be with you" and hands you a Porterhouse steak. Now, this is a PRIME piece of meat, perfectly marbled and aged. This thing could actually feed your entire family, and dang, you've been STARVING in the last week. This is a GIFT!

And you take a look at your children and your family and decide you're all pretty hungry but you haven't seen a cow or a steer in a long time because you actually decided they weren't environmentally safe since they killed your grass in order to sustain themselves, and it meant you had to take time away from protesting Bush or or the war or free press in order to take care of them.  Some actually starved and died under your watch, but hey, they were just cattle that weren't being used, so what difference did it make? 

But then this porterhouse came your way and was given to you, and you looked at your progeny and realized maybe you were wrong about the importance of meat. And so you decided that it was really all about the stuff it contained in it that might make your family live a little longer. 

So you take that steak and because you can't serve it raw, you throw it into a pot of boiling water so as to kill the bacteria and inorganic materials that surely covered it. And you didn't want to grill it for fear of making chem trails in the sky above your ranch. Besides, you wouldn't have enough to feed Algore and his camera crew.   

So when it's done boiling and tough as the hide of the mummified bull you left to rot out in the home paddock, you decide it's safe to consume. But maybe it'll go down more quickly if it's blended and served in shot glasses and trendy finger bowls.  So you toss it into the mixer or the blender and you put it on "puree".

And maybe you toss in a few vegetables to blend with it, but when it's done, it's the same goop everyone eats, right? All you gotta do is garnish it with a few lentils and maybe some organic wheat grass

And you serve this mushy porterhouse steak in tumblers to your family explaining that it's all the same as the stuff that comes off your neighbor's grill.  And the mother, even though she secretly objects to how dinner is being prepared and served, says to her astonished children, "But it's still a steak, right?  The meat is still present, it just seems different because it's prepared differently. But it's all the same.  No matter what you do to it, it's still a porterhouse steak!  Slurp up!

And eventually the children, accustomed to eating in this manner, take on the same astonished litany, because they have to in order to convince themselves that the Left Hand Makes a Y Ranch is experiencing the same benefits as the Faithful and Joyful Ranch.  

And one day someone comes to town and visits the Y Ranch and experiences their idea of dinner. They partake because they, too recognize that what is served is in fact a steak because they saw it before it was transformed into goop. And even though they try to DESCRIBE what a Porterhouse is like, the family at Y decides that's too much work and no one would like it because boiling and blending is so much easier and understandable.  Who needs spices and rubs and flavorings and accoutrements like garlic steamed broccoli?  Or cheddar mashed potatoes? 

Does anyone see a problem with this? 

Anyone who knows what a Porterhouse is about can clearly see that the Y Ranch is actually not aware of the import of what the Porterhouse is really about.  It is an event. A major event. It feeds the starving children.  It isn't just about the substance, but the understanding of what it is. And understanding what it is about is made more clear by what leads up to it and surrounds it. 

Certainly, you can boil a steak and serve it with water and a thickening agent. But that what a Porterhouse is about? 

Those who have ever worked in health care will understand this analogy most clearly.  I remember blending food for those who could not chew. I remember adding a thickening agent to gel water so that my patient wouldn't choke and drown.  I remember spooning a ham and cheese sandwich from a plastic bowl into the mouth of another dear person, wondering if they'd EVER have the pleasure of knowing what a ham sandwich was really about.  

The Rights of the Faithful

The fact is that the Liturgy matters.  The entire Liturgy prepares us for what we are about to receive. And if the accoutrements make us say trite and improperly defensive things like: "But...Jesus is still present!", it is indicative that we are not being presented with the reality of what we are supposed to be receiving. It means we're spooning up mush when we should be gnawing from the bone. 

People, if you leave Mass commenting, "Jesus was still made manifest" or "It was still a  valid Mass" or "The people of the Congo would have died for what we just experienced"....


First of all, if you're making those comments, it is an act of trying to justify or rationalize something you recognized is very, very wrong.  If your latter comment about experiencing what people in the Congo or in India or the Sudan or Bosnia would die to experience...don't count on it. It's quite possible they'd rather die than see such a lack of reverence given to Our Lord.
If you're going to bring up the martyrdom of those who suffer for the Mass, I must ask you this:    are you suggesting they don't DESERVE a properly celebrated Mass with all the  accountrements that draws them in to Christ?  Are they not deserving of all the elements of the liturgy we are supposed to be celebrating in honor of Christ?  Would that not also edify their souls?  Or don't they deserve reverence?  

Secondly, if you're going to cite the poor Catholics of those awful war-torn parts of the world, are you suggesting they have no TASTE?   Just because certain American Catholics think that it's OK to wear blue pastel paint swipes on a scarf over a plastic summer tablecloth doesn't mean that those who have lost everything have also lost appreciation for true beauty.  In fact, I'm pretty sure they'd give up food for MONTHS in order to purchase proper liturgical vestments for their priests.  

Thirdly...are you suggesting that because we live in a country that has access to all those things that make the liturgy proper and beautiful, we SHOULD NOT utilize those things just because other people in other parts of the world cannot because of their persecution? 

Here's the reality:  

The liturgy here is present everywhere. We go to Mass not for ourselves, but ON BEHALF OF those who CANNOT!  We have the potential to experience the full effects of Grace, and that grace is brought to fulfillment by a liturgy properly celebrated and experienced, and we can offer that for those who are deprived of the ability to even seen a priest, much less attend a Mass offered by him.  

If you're making excuses saying that liturgical disharmony is OK because everyone doesn't get to experience what is written in the GIRM or other things that honor God in the liturgy, then what you are saying is that you don't understand what the liturgy is about, nor do you understand that the Mass isn't relevant only to the location where it's celebrated, but EVERYWHERE and in ALL TIMES.  


So stop with the excuses.  If you're happy with mush, then go eat mush, but don't enforce it on the rest of us.  We who know what steak is about are happy to share it, but it means you need to leave the puree behind and never look back. Don't waste our time or our salvation suggesting that the unidentifiable dinner your having is anything like the great feast the rest of us are celebrating in everywhere else. 

I am so sad for those parishes that have a liturgy which is unrecognizable as being Catholic.  We have a few in my diocese, and there are many that have not obtained fame.  The fact is that those people are suffering because their Sacraments may be invalid, they are not experiencing the Word of God, they are not learning the Gospel message.  The Liturgy is the face of the Church, and it is what most people recognize about Catholics. 

When you walk into a Cathedral or a beautiful church, who do you see walking around in awe, taking photos, asking questions?

Protestants.  People of no faith.  People who are seeking. 

So many Catholics in the past (and sadly, today) have had this impression that if we look more Protestant, then we'll be more attractive. The opposite is the truth. 

The non-Catholic people who enter our churches take a look cringe, and comment, "What did you do THAT for?"  

They can no longer even find a representation of Christ in our parishes. They find blobs of stone or resin and wonder at the religion that would permit something so utterly blasphemous to be contained within the walls of what is supposed to be sacred space. 

And so often, people visiting Catholic Churches can't even find the glowing red candle that is supposed to mark the tabernacle.  How do we bring people into the Presence of Christ...but can't point to Him?  

So I say, save your useless platitudes. Don't make excuses for what is wrong. Admit that something isn't right and work to establish what should be present, and what elevates us to Christ.  

The Church does not exist to save the world. It exists to save our souls.  THAT'S what we need to understand and follow. And if we don't vibrantly live out what we believe, then  we'll be violently spit out in the very form of the lukewarm mush with which we liturgically choose to disregard the honor due to God.  

I guess we all have a choice.  I, for one, have no time for excuses. You?  

*This rant has been brought to you by Adoro and does not represent the opinion of her priests or her bishops in any official capacity, although she thinks it's possible she might be stating what they think but are far too polite, holy, and well-formed to state outside of private conversation with other of the ordained persuasion.  In other words...nothing contained above is Catholic Doctrine. Don't sue me if you're not practicing custody of the eyes.  I'll go to my judgment for writing this, and you can go to yours for reading it. Agreed?  Agreed. Thank you.  Expect time in purgatory just for reading this.  Sorry. I'll do your time for you. * 

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Prayer for All to Pray

The other day an old 1916 prayer book that I'd forgotten about fell off of my shelf and landed on my desk, scaring me half to death. It's one that was given to me by a friend who'd picked it up in an antique book store some time ago.  It's one of those wonderful mysterious treasures that has hidden within its pages many holy cards and prayers belonging to its last owner.   

I haven't looked at this frayed old prayer book for quite a long time, but now that I do so, I have to wonder if whoever owned it struggled with the same things as I. But whoever it was, I'm grateful it fell into my lap, for it was still sitting on my desk this evening and somehow I knew that if I opened it up, God would speak.  Indeed, He has, and from the printing on a faded piece of elaborately decorated parchment, I share these words with you:


Teach me, Oh Lord, to be sweet and gentle in all the events of life; in disappointments, in the thoughtlessness of others, in the insincerity of those I trusted, in the unfaithfulness of those upon whom I relied. 

Let me put myself aside, to think of the happiness of others, to hide my little pains and heartaches, so that I may be the only one to suffer from them. 

Teach me to profit by the suffering that comes across my path.

Let me so use it that it may mellow me, not harden nor embitter me; that it may make me patient, not irritable; that it may make me broad in my forgiveness, not narrow, haughty and overbearing. 

May no one be less good for having come within my influence; no one less pure, less true, less kind, less noble for having been a fellow-traveler in our journey toward Eternal Life. 

As I go my rounds from one distraction to another, let me whisper, from time to time, a word of love to Thee. May my life to lived in the supernatural, full of power for good, and strong in its purpose of sanctity. 

Amen. Alleluia.

*copyright the E.M. Lohmann Co. 

Interesting Phenomena

In my previous post, I was making an attempt to direct readers to the theological concept of proper authority and the practical applications that result. 

Basically, to reiterate, I as a lay person CAN teach/preach outside of a homily, but my message won't really have the same effect as if that same message is conveyed by the person with the proper authority to do so.  In short, a Priest can offer what he teaches.  A Lay person cannot.  And in this case, I'm talking specifically about the Sacraments.  

I'll admit I was getting a bit frustrated with some of the comments I was receiving, because they were focusing not on my message, but on me.  They included advice as to how to point people to the proper authority.  When I teach about the Sacraments, I do that. In fact, in my blog post, I linked to a Church Document. I doubt anyone clicked on it.  

Same kind of thing.  When I teach/preach on the Sacraments, it falls on deaf ears in the same way my own theological point fell on blind eyes last night and this morning.  

The commenters, in a way I didn't at first realize, exactly made my point. 

Had a Priest brought up the issue of teaching authority proper to the priesthood versus that of the laity, what would have ensued would be a theological discussion of his points. 

But because I am a lay person, the theological point was largely ignored in favor of discussing my own personal role and what I should/could do, etc.  

That's EXACTLY what happens when a lay person teaches on these very important matters.  People ignore the message.  I don't get phone calls with questions on what I actually said, but rather, questions about what authority I have to tell them how to live.  I get questions on my outfit or my shoes or what kind of paper I used to write the talk on.  I get questions about what the kids should wear for First Communion. 

The one ear and out the other. 

Just like my blog post from last night. Almost NO discussion on the theology.  

I've also realized that's happened over and over on my posts where I'm making theological points. Granted, I often speak from experience in order to make my point, but even if I don't, people will tend to focus on me as the messenger more than the message itself. 

That's a problem, I'm realizing.  Because if I dominate the topic so much, then it means Jesus has taken a back seat, and I'm the one somehow in the limelight.  

This makes me seriously question blogging.  At least, my participation in it.  One of the reasons I don't write under my own name is because I don't want to be the focus. Yet, over time, that's happened. My identity is known to a lot of people now, and of course, once one is known, things become more personal and less theoretical.  

I'm going to take some time to really think about all of this, and whether or not I can do a better job of making Christ the focus as He is intended to be.  If I can't discuss theology without getting out of the way, that's a problem.  If my words are pointing only to me and people are bypassing God in order to get to me, then I'm not doing my job.  

I apologize if my frustration came out in my responses to comments in the previous post as I meant no offense to anyone, and know that they meant no offense to me. And truly, I am not offended. In fact, I'm glad they commented as they did as it makes me truly evaluate what I'm doing and why. 

God bless. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

By What Authority?

This afternoon in our Ecclesiology class, our professor was lecturing on Mystici Corporis Christi, an incredible document EVERY Catholic must read.  

I experienced a revelation that was put together also with something learned from Canon Law either on Friday night or Saturday morning, and it seems so obvious it shouldn't even BE a revelation!  

Our professor was discussing the gifts of the Holy Spirit; those that are hierarchical (i.e. pertain to  clergy of the hierarchy of the Church:  Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, Priests) and the other charismatic gifts that are proper to the laity.  In Canon Law the other day that professor discussed the graces given, gifts of the Holy Spirit given through the Sacraments.  We receive extraordinary graces in our Vocations when we receive the Sacrament that effects what it is.  Thus, those who are Ordained receive the necessary supernatural grace to live a celibate life, those who are Married receive the graces which enable them to raise their children. 

Then, today, in musing about the nature of the gifts granted to each of us by the Holy Spirit, and the respective roles of Clergy and Laity in the life of the Church, I realized that there is something almost disordered about how some of those things are being lived out today.  

In my role as a parish employee, part of my job is to present teaching to adults on the Sacraments so that they will be more empowered to teach their own children, which is their role.  That means that I'm up in front of a classroom, presenting Catholic doctrine, using Church documents to back up my points, using testimony, any possible tools necessary in conveying the required information.  

On the surface, this seems just fine. Certainly the Laity are allowed to preach outside of the Mass, and it's a good thing for us to be able to do so;  it is proper to our state, and I'm convinced God gives us the graces to do what we need to do when we are seeking to serve Him and His Bride the Church. 

However, perhaps we should look again at the proper role of Clergy and Laity in the context of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which correspond to our state in life...ESPECIALLY with regard to the Sacraments.  

When I stand in front of a classroom, the reality is this:  I'm on the same par with everyone out there. I am a laywoman. I am not an expert in anything, and even if I had a Doctorate in Sacramental Theology, it would not change my state in life.  Knowledge is important, fidelity to Church teachings is imperative, but the reality is that those people are looking up at me at the podium and thinking, "Who the hell are YOU to tell me I have to go to Confession?   Who the hell are YOU to tell us that we should not go to Communion if we've committed a sin on this list?  What kind of authority do YOU have to tell me what I should and should not believe?" 

They're right. 

I have no authority.  

I can speak of the teachings of the Church, and in the capacity of my employment, I speak under the authority and direction of the Priest, who represents the Bishop, who represents the Pope.  But I am not ordained. Canonically, Vocationally, and Ecclesiastically speaking, I have no real authority and I cannot officially speak for the Church. 

It is proper to the state of the Ordained Ministers (Bishops, Priests, Deacons) to preach the Word of God, to teach the faith, and to speak for the Church.  They are given the hierarchical gifts by the Holy Spirit when they are admitted to Holy Orders, and through that indelible mark on their souls, they are granted authority directly from God to teach and preach.  

I am not suggesting that the Laity do not have a voice. I am merely pointing out the reality that as a Laywoman, I CANNOT speak with the same authority because I cannot possess it and never will.  Nor should I, for the gifts proper to my state in life are not truly ordered to teaching within the Church itself. 

I am ALSO suggesting that some of the crisis in catechesis that we are seeing and trying to repair comes directly from the fact that the Laity are teaching and preaching on the Sacraments!  Words that are fully in union with the teachings of Christ are falling on deaf ears because we simply cannot command the respect which is naturally given to Pastors, whose charisms are ordered to the act of teaching and preaching these Divine Truths.  

Consider the Gospel passages where Jesus takes the scroll in the Temple, reads from Isaiah 61, and states that this has been fulfilled in their hearing. All the people wonder, for Jesus teaches with authority, "not like the scribes."  In fact, Jesus angered many because He taught with authority and without the typical hesitance or even arrogance of others who were charged with the teaching office. 

Jesus taught with authority for He IS the Word made flesh; He speaks of Himself.  

Consider, then, who can teach with that same authority?  

Priests. Bishops. The Pope.  

Why?  By virtue of their Ordination, the authority passed down from Jesus Christ Himself, the same authority STILL possessed in the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit, who gives the gifts needed for those who serve in the hierarchy and act in the name of Jesus, standing in the place of Christ Himself. 

Consider how it is proper for a Priest to give instruction on the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion, to read from the Gospel of John (even outside of Mass) and explain those teachings and why we believe in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  

The same voice that should be teaching us about the Sacrament of Confession is the same voice that speaks in the person of Christ offering absolution so that we will experience the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ Himself, personally.  That same voice that should be instructing us in how simple bread and wine are transsubstantiated into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ is the same that stands in persona Christi and offers us "The Body of Christ" when we receive our Lord from his hand in Holy Communion. 

That is the position of the authority of Jesus Christ Himself, authority that cannot be purchased, authority that cannot be bought, authority that cannot be forced...for it comes from God alone and enacted through the Magisterium of the Church in the Sacrament of Ordination. The priesthood is ordered not only towards offering the Sacraments, but TEACHING about them! 

For what good is it for a lay person such as myself to stand up and preach about something they cannot provide?  A Priest can both preach and offer what is needed to those who need the grace.

Who am I, indeed?  It is a privilege for me to have been allowed to stand before a group of people and share the message of Divine Mercy, to provide the teachings of Christ and His Church, to provide a scriptural synthesis on why we believe in the True Presence.  No doubt there was grace there, but it truly isn't my place as a laywoman to provide those teachings.  I can't offer to them what I am asking them to do or believe.  

Please understand; I am not suggesting that the Laity cannot preach!  Indeed we can, and we should. As Baptized Catholics, we are obligated to preach the Gospel to all nations!  We are obligated to share our faith with others, to live our faith, and to bring others to Christ!  This is a DUTY by virtue of our BAPTISM!   

However, I DO suggest that even though Canon Law allows us to offer teachings on the Sacraments, either as a parish employee or as a volunteer, it is proper to the state of the Clergy to provide those teachings.  Further, if Father goes into that room and gives the same talk I do (or hopefully one MUCH better!), the Confession lines will be consistently longer, there will be more reverence towards Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and there will be fewer and fewer Catholics who dismiss the importance of the Sacramental life of the Church.  

The reality is that Priests simply aren't able to do everything that is proper to their state, and they need us to help them and provide teachings where allowed (everywhere outside of the homily).  

I pray for the day I can step down and take a seat in the classroom, allowing Father to take his rightful place up front, and perhaps I'll be another soul in need of mercy in his line for Confession. 

The charisms of the Laity are ordered towards evangelization outside of the Church building.  It makes sense for me to sit down with someone, whether personally or professionally, and discuss Church teaching one to one. This is how souls truly come to Christ.  But the Clergy are ordered towards providing the teachings within the Church, for they can speak with authority and provide what they discuss.  What a beautiful gift! 

I'd far rather stand back and do what I can to help the Pastor round up the lost sheep, for the reality is that it is his voice they need to know and recognize...not mine.

Their salvation depends on it. 

PLEASE NOTE:  I'm adding this due to some of the comments I'm receiving.  Don't read into this post what isn't there. This post is NOT about the fact that I'm teaching and what I should or should not be saying to a class when I give talks on the sacraments to adults.  I'm trying to direct you to the issue of proper Authority granted by God through ordination, to the authority of the Teaching office that cannot be possessed in the same way as the Laity.   

MAIN POINT:  If a Priest, the one with Authority, is the one to offer the teaching, people would respect the message a lot more, and even follow it.  

Please focus on that, and not on me.  Although in a way, I guess the comments make the point:  because I as a lay person am delivering this message, I'm STILL the one getting the attention. The actual message in this post is being missed entirely.