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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pondering Spiritual Motherhood

As the title indicates, I have been pondering spiritual motherhood. Lately, in prayer, and especially after having attended yesterday's Ordination Mass, my devotion to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ has been given a radical kick.

Yet…I don't really understand Motherhood. How can I? My mother was wonderful...for the first part of my life. And she's wonderful now, but our relationship has been very, very damaged. How, then, can I be a mother to anyone.

Last year, after a First Communion Mass I had coordinated, one of my catechists gave me a corsage. It was Mother’s Day and I protested to her that I’m not a mother as I am not married and have no children. I’m not deserving of the honor of a corsage. She disagreed, as did a couple of the parents of the children receiving the Sacraments; she called me a “spiritual mother” to them all. I was deeply, deeply touched, and humbled. In truth, this lady had helped me greatly in my first year in that parish and in truth, was far more a mother to me than I was to ANYONE!

What is Motherhood?

I’ve had to break it down: What does a mother do?

She loves. She sacrifices. She cares deeply for her children and will stop at nothing to be certain they have what they need. If they fall, she picks them up and brushes them off. If there are tears, she wipes them away. If they misbehave, she corrects them and sets them on their way.

Maybe most importantly, she lives her life as an example to them, and whether they realize it or not, they follow that example as they grow. They take on her practices, her gestures, and even if they don’t share her interests, they at least understand and support them as they grow into their own calling. But most importantly, if she sets a good example and treats them in accordance to live that example themselves…they grow up and reflect, in a way, her image.

I once had a teacher who, when some of my classmates misbehaved, would say, “You’re behavior is a reflection of your mother.”

That always gave us pause. How did we want our mothers to be seen?

Spiritual motherhood, then, isn’t the same as real-life motherhood, but the elements are there, and perhaps deepened in that mystical way only God understands. A spiritual mother cares for her spiritual children in unseen ways, in prayer and fasting, small sacrifices, and maybe even real-life encouragement or redirection when needed or if even possible. It’s a hidden type of motherhood, but just as important in the Mystical Body of Christ as any real motherhood would be.

Spiritual Mothers of Priests

Spiritual mothers of priests have additional concerns, although not in ways all that different from those of biological mothers. She prays that priests will be holy, that they will be conformed to Christ, have the humility to allow Christ to work through them in every moment, and will be good Fathers. She takes them as her sons by adoption, yet loving them as her own, just as Joseph loved Jesus as his own child.

She carries them with her in hear heart, pondering the Paschal Mystery, the Misterium Fidei, and the Priestood, knowing they are one and the same. She ponders deeply the needs of her Sons, understanding human nature, never in denial of that reality, even as she recognizes how we strive for holiness, and the importance for all that their spiritual Fathers, Priests, remain in a state of sanctity. Holy Priests create Holy People. It's a fact that cannot be denied.

And if one of those Priests should fall, she does not abandon him, but prays and sacrifices all the more so that he, like the Prodigal Son, might return home and be welcomed and celebrated by the Father.

She remains in the background, always implied, never seen, rarely recognized, few words spoken or recorded, and therin is her mystery and her necessity. Just as the Priest empties himself in order to stand in persona Christi, so does the spiritual mother empty herself in order to allow herself to be pierced with Divine Love and be so united with Christ at the foot of the Cross that she can lay down her own life for the Church.

It is a hidden sacrifice, and even if it is recognized formally, it remains in the mystical realm, completely following the scriptural silence of the Mother of Jesus who contemplated much, but revealed...very little. The few words she spoke pointed to Jesus and all that He did and would do.

Spiritual mothers try to be conformed to Christ as much as possible, through the guidance of Our Lady, and through her intercession and model, are also conformed to her in a special way. They also know, that like our Blessed Mother, they will be pierced with suffering and therefore united to Christ in His Passion.

To be a spiritual mother of priests is to enjoy a dignity not merited, not requested, and perhaps not desired. is a calling. A Vocation within a Vocation. A hidden Vocation, for most of her sons will never know her, nor will she know them. Yet, once she has given her fiat, each and every time a Priest falls, she will be pierced, just as Our Sorrowful Mother was pierced through the depths of her soul as she followed Christ through His Passion and death on the Cross.

We look at scripture, and who remained at the foot of the Cross? The Mother of our Lord and other women, spiritual mothers united with Mary, devoted to Jesus, and their one remaining son, the Apostle John...the only one who did not flee. And incidentally, the one who outlived all the other Apostles for the good of the Church.

Could he have done this without the support of the Mother of God? Without the support of those women, who, even before Christianity, had a tradition of supporting and sacrificing for their teachers?

This weekend, I looked down at my hand, for I wore a ring given to me by my own Mother a few years ago as she can no longer wear it. It is a Mother's ring created out of Black Hills Gold: a rose with two leaves, symbolizing a mother and her two children. I've long felt weird wearing it, yet, finally, this weekend it made sense to me.

I will continue to ponder this and pray about it, and there is much left unsaid, which is as it should be. By no means is this post complete, and perhaps it will never be so.

What I DO know is this: we are all called to pray for our Priests and Bishops, we are all called to live out our Baptismal promises to spread the Gospel to all nations. But there are some who are set apart for certain roles.

Ladies...are YOU called to Spiritual Motherhood for Priests?


A Priest in Crisis: Fr. MacRae

While we're on the topic of the Priesthood, I want to take this moment to remind everyone that priests ALWAYS need our prayers. We tend to pray for people when they are experiencing some kind of difficulty, priests included, but our prayers slack off in general if we think things are going well.

The reality is that prayer is a constant need. In the words of St. Joan of Arc, whose feast day was yesterday, regarding the question whether she was in a state of grace: "If I am not, I pray the Lord get me there, and if I am, I pray he keep me there!".

We must always pray, in the good times and the bad. Yesterday, and in this season of ordinations, we are all pledging prayers for our new priests...let's not slack off! The reality is that this Vocation is one that will conform them so closely to Christ that, in fact, they may be led into crisis...or prison.

There is a website I have been meaning to bring to you for it is dedicated to priests in crisis. We know the world hates the Catholic Church, and we know that, especially since the scandals broke, priests have been both justly and unjustly accused. The problem is that the system is still broken, and there are priests who have suffered unjust accusations and continue to suffer sentences imposed without basis in law.

One such case is that of Fr. Gordon MacRae. His story was sent to me last night; he has been imprisoned for 15 years of a 33 year sentence, and is in need of encouragement. If we are to pray for priests, why not spend some time this Blessed Pentecost praying for him?

You may read Fr. MacRae's story here, and post some encouraging words.

I also encourage you to read the other blog posts and explore the website, Priests in Crisis, even pass it on to priests you know, whether they are in crisis or not. It could be that they know a priest in need of assistance, and this apostolate exists for them.

Spread the word! And pray unceasingly for priests!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ordination Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul

This morning I attended the Ordination Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul, and it is the first time I've had the opportunity to be present for such an auspicious event.

In following advice from a friend, I arrived sometime around 8:45, wanting to be CERTAIN to get a parking place, because, let's face it; women's shoes are NOT made for walking. Not the kind of shoes that go with nice skirts, anyway. So it was that I had time to wander around the Cathedral and pray Morning Prayer in Sacred Heart Chapel.

For those who have never been to our Cathedral, it is history personified. The stained glass, the pillars, the altar...everything is a link to the very beginning of the Church, right from the side of Christ. One cannot possibly look ANYWHERE without seeing a connection to the Universal Church, whether through those who built this structure, those who first touched American soil, the first converts, and even the immense marble pillars that support the baldacchin over the high altar have a tale to share for those who inquire.

But today wasn't about was about something with far more impact on us all than any building will EVER have.

I found my way to a pew in the rear section as the entire front section of the Cathedral was reserved for concelebrating priests and friends/family of those being ordained. Although I know one of them, I didn't feel I could claim a place among such elect, so found a spot near the front of the rear. It wasn't long, though, before someone recognized me and beckoned me forward to join her in the frontward section, so gratefully I stood and found myself in one of the prime locations in the Cathedral; somewhere near the middle of the front.

Ironically, I might have seen more had I remained in the rear and held my aisle position! But I digress.

The Mass began with a solemn chant, and all turned towards the entrance. I was in fact, entranced by the Crucifix held aloft amidst the smoke of incense and back lit by the bright sunshine even as it reflected the lights of the cavernous Cathedral nave. Slowly the procession, the likes of which I'd never seen before today, passed through the center; acolytes (seminarians), first bearing incense and the cross and candles, then the MC's (Master of Ceremonies), Deacons, Priests...finally those to be ordained, followed by the principle Concelebrants, most notable being several Bishops, including one from Chicago as well as our most recent Bishop-Elect, and of course his Excellency the Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt. They were followed by two priests (or seminarians?) garbed in vimpae, which look like humeral veils, bearing something with great respect. I later saw them bearing the Mitres and the Bishop's Crosier.

The readings were alternating English/Spanish, and at first I wondered about this, then realized that one or two of those to be ordained had spent a great deal of time in service to our Hispanic Catholics, so clearly, they would be in attendance. As I speak Spanish, I enjoyed both reading the translations as well as listening to the Word proclaimed in that language. Truth be told, though, I still didn't clearly understood it, nor would I have in Latin. (And for Mass, I prefer's far more universal than a bilingual Mass...again, I digress!)

Rite of Ordination

Now for the big moment. Or rather...moments. Quite a series of them.

This begins, other than the Consecration, the most beautiful Ritual of the Church, and the most meaningful. I realized just in reading the program that this entire semester has prepared me to be able to absorb the import of this Mass. There I was, with Luke-Acts fresh in my memory, having written papers that focused on God's call to those He intends to be set aside, and, of course, on the Priesthood awe at watching the first Century taking place before my very eyes!

I must say here, that with this realization, I became very very conscious of the four brick and stone pillars surrounding us, signifying the four Gospels and their authors. I became very aware of the sanctity of the Church, the foundation, the protection, and the safety to be found within those walls. It was a safety that is not earthly, but spiritual, for any of us might be called to shed our blood just as did our Lord...yet His promises would NEVER fail us. It was a profound moment of gratitude for Jesus Christ and His Priesthood. It was a profound moment of knowing what it means to be Catholic.

The Rite of Ordination begins with the deacon calling forward those to be ordained. At the sound of their name, each stood, in turn, called out "Present!", passed the communion rail and mounted the steps to the altar, then turned to face the Archbishop. When all three were there, after some additional prayers, came the Election of the Bishop and Consent of the People.

The program cued us with the following:

Bishop: "Relying on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose these, our brothers, for the Order of the Priesthood."

Assembly: Thanks be to God!

The program notes here that the people show assent with applause. Which was, of course, quite enthusiastic, as you might imagine!

After this, the Archbishop gave his homily, from his Chair, not the lectern. He was speaking to the three ordinands who were seated before him. Unfortunately, for some reason although I greatly enjoyed his homily, I can't tell you the content! I can say, however, that his words were not for those men alone, but for us all, in some way, and I hope to come across a text version so that I can take time to read and digest the wisdom he conveyed today.

After the homily came another major moment; this is the Promise of the Elect, where the candidates must declare their intention to undertake the office of the priesthood and exercise their ministry worthily in imitation of Christ the High Priest.

Then...the Promise of Obedience. An all-or-nothing moment. Even I got cold feet, and no one was asking me to commit to anything! One cannot help but realize the weight of the moment, the gift being offered...and the free will to refuse.

One by one, the men went forward, bowed, knelt before the seated Bishop, and placed his folded hands in the Bishop's, pledging obedience. This is not done as a group, but individually. After this, the three men stood facing the altar, and then prostrated before it, and Our Lord, as the congregation stood and prayed the Litany to the Saints.

My friends, I can tell you...the Cathedral was FULL. Both the seen and the unseen.

Laying on of Hands

The ordinands again approach the Bishop, and, each in turn, kneel before him as he lays his hands on their heads, signifying the gift of the Holy Spirit conferring the priestly office. They return to their places, the congregation is seated, and each of the priests present ascend the altar to also impose hands to signify the new candidate's incorporation into the presbyterate.

Following this is the Prayer of Ordination, and the Investiture with the Stole and Chasuble, where the newly ordained priests are vested. Finally, they, once again, in turn, approach the Bishop so that he may anoint their hands with the Sacred Chrism.

The sign of peace, an embrace, is passed between the ordained, first the Bishop, and then, again, all the priests present file forward to greet their brother priests.

Liturgy of the Eucharist

This was not in the program, but when the gifts were brought forward, a chalice and ciborium were taken to the Bishop, and these were in turn, given to each of the newly ordained priests with the solemn admonition of the importance of their priestly ministry in consecrating the bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

The new priests stood with the Primary Concelebrants in direct participation, for the first time, of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

From where we were seated, or rather, kneeling, it was quite impressive to be across the aisle from the hundreds of priests who remained standing, uttering, softly, in a reverent rumble, the words of Consecration. It was absolutely humbling, and in those moments, I was perhaps more able to sense the connection to priests all over the world, saying those same words, with the same intent, in union with one another, with the Pope.

The words of St. Irenaeus came to me: "There is one bishop, one sacrifice."

One High Priest. And all His chosen Sons, united, and He comes to us through their anointed hands.


There was a humorous moment as the Deacon stood and read where each of the three new priests would be available for blessings after the Mass. He read from a book and indicated simply that Fr. Ebert would be in St. Mary's his right in the back.

The Archbishop, with a mischievous expression, standing at his Chair, just behind the Deacon but fully visible, quickly gestured to the back right of the Cathedral. A few chuckled.

The Deacon read that Fr. Eilen would be in St. Joseph's Chapel, to his left.

The Archbishop, right on cue, quickly gestured, pointing to the chapel to the rear left, immediately returning his hands to the proper pose. More chuckles. Louder, this time.

The Deacon read that Fr. Johnson would be found in St. Peter's Chapel, again, to his right.

The Archbishop, after a little pause, quickly pointed to his immediate right, and returned to his previous position. Outright laughter ensued.

The poor Deacon had NO IDEA what our beloved Archbishop was doing!


I wasn't initially planning to go to one of the chapels for a blessing. I knew that only one of the new Fathers has met me and would not remember whether I was there to receive his blessing or not, although, of course I wanted to be a part of that tradition, as well. One of the wonderful things about attending an ordination Mass is receiving one of the First Blessings from the newly ordained, and perhaps kissing his newly-anointed hands!

So I let others leave, knelt down to pray for awhile, and then checked to see whether I had any time at all. Just a little. Feeling a bit "led", I walked towards St. Luke's pillar (and just now, as I write this, recognize the significance of that, given the studies of my semester). I paused to take a photo of the Saint, and just then, Archbishop-emeritus Flynn passed me, within arm's reach, Archbishop Nienstedt passed, blessing us (almost personal at that sparse point), and our new Bishop-elect passed by, greeting a Franciscan Friar who was actually waiting for me to take my photo, I think!

I continued on towards St. Joseph's chapel, praying to him as I also have a great devotion to him, and have for a long time. Somehow, I think my Guardian Angel must have orchestrated it, but I managed to weave through the crowd, never pushing anyone, just being moved along, even ushered by other people, and it wasn't long before I stood at the entrance to the chapel.

It was my great privilege to kneel before Fr. Eilen, grasp his hand, congratulate him, and receive his blessing, which was, as it were, almost a consecration to Jesus through Mary. Amen, Father.


And so, after this long winding epic post, please let me have the wonderful privilege to congratulate our Newly Ordained Priests: Father Douglas Allen Ebert, Father Allen Paul John Eilen, and Father Michael Chrun Johnson. You are all in my prayers. Thank you for giving your fiat to Our Lord!

*** You may be interested to know that Fr. Johnson was one of the seminarian blogers at Future Priests of the Third Millenium. Comments are turned off at that blog, but it is well worth following!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Armchair Archbishops

There is something I consistently see out of people who claim to be "good Catholics", and it makes me wonder at their definition of terms. What lexicon are they using that makes them translate the Latin into that particular self-aggrandizing phrase?

Our wonderful Archbishop recently wrote a very pastoral (in the PROPER sense!) letter (1) to a disruptive dissident group in our Archdiocese. I am not going to post links to either the letter or the website I'm about to discuss as I don't want any more attention than necessary brought to this issue. Nor do I want the self-hating group of "Catholics" to obtain any benefit of publicity from my blog.

The real issue I want to discuss really has nothing to do with the heterodox problem children, anyway, but those who claim to be "orthodox" while wearing their vitriol on their sleeves.

How does one get dressed in the morning with that tacky stuff all over them?

I read the letter from the Archbishop and found it to be clear, concise, and to the point. The group it was directed at cannot mistake the point he is making unless, as the song says, they are "reading between the lines to misunderstand." (2)

And of course, from THAT group I expect such idiocy. If they AGREED with the Bishop and followed Church teaching, he wouldn't have written the letter in the first place!

What disturbs me is that another blogger posted the letter on his site with some minor commentary, and his post was very positive. He obviously supports the good Archbishop.

Unfortunately, his readers immediately began deconstructing the letter, nitpicking minor phrases, other readers began making weird arguments from silence as though perhaps they thought the Bishop should have written an extensive Apostolic Exhortation (3) instead of the letter that was proper to the situation.

This drives me NUTS! This is completely disrespectful of the Bishop who, one knows, is already going to be taking a massive hit from this group (which has not ceased to harass him from the very announcement he was coming to our diocese); does he really need to be brought down by "friendly fire"?

What is up with these "Armchair Archbishops" who apparently think they know more than one of the best of our Shepherds?

I'm quite certain such pastoral letters are difficult to write, especially when addressing a serious ongoing issue in a particular diocese. Of course the Bishop must hone in on the most immediate of issues, for who is going to read a ten-page exhortation? No one. My goodness, the Pope can't get people to read even his shortest of works, who's going to read the Bishop's if he doesn't get to the point immediately? He doesn't need to drag in what he's already said to this group, very publicly. He doesn't need to reiterate every teaching of the Church that MIGHT have bearing on the issue just to satisfy the snarkiest of "orthodox Catholics".

How dare ANY of us be so arrogant to nitpick a Bishop? It's treading a very thin line, one I've addressed in previous posts. Under Canon Law, we owe respect to our priests and bishops, and when we start making stupid and snarky criticisms of our leaders, what message does that send to others? If we profess to have respect for our Magisterium, guess what? It starts at home. It starts with the priests (which means not villifying them in blogs and comboxes), it starts with the Bishops (ditto), and it means that if we can't edify, we should maybe keep our mouths shut.

By the way, that applies to others as well. The blog I'm citing (but not citing) is one I read, although I avoid the combox as it tends to be overwhelmed with ad hominem attacks from overzealous followers. Most of whom, it seems some days, think they would make perfect Bishops. I thank God every day for the intervention of the Holy Spirit in that matter!

When we get snarky like that, it sends a message to the non-Catholic world, and rightly...they see it as infighting. Which it is. Completely unnecessary infighting, for aren't we actually on the same page? Allegedly? After all, we tend to agree that the letter is a good one. Then why tear it to pieces? Such an action completely undermines the Bishop, and for what?

There might be a time to criticize the words of a Bishop (NEVER attacking the Bishop or priest themselves!), just as there might be a time to criticize the words of others. But this can ALWAYS be done in charity. And perhaps blogs aren't the proper venue for such criticism. Perhaps there's a better way. Something more proper. Something more in line with humility and holiness and less in line with the hostile bashing comments typica to a secular newspaper article.

People, the world already hates Catholics. Don't invite more hostility, please. And don't encourage it.

Perhaps when a Bishop does something good, instead of deconstructing his words in order to ask why he didn't say what we think he should, maybe we should sit back, remember that the Holy Spirit is in charge, and, at least in the case of my Archdiocese, He is very much in contact with our Shepherd.

Maybe the lay-Bishops in their armchairs should stand down and let the Holy Spirit do his job, and maybe they (and we all) should do ours: to support the Bishop, pray for him, sacrifice for him, and act according to our Baptismal call to preach the gospel to all nations. We don't do a very good job of that if we're busy snarking off at the Bishop over inane details in a letter written for a specific situation.


Hmmm...I think I just might write a letter of support to our Bishop tonight.


(1.) A Pastoral Letter is one written by someone with Pastoral Authority regarding a matter of pastoral significance

(2.) Sabra Girl by Nickel Creek, lyrics: "Rosy the lines you wrote with your hand. Reading between them to misunderstand."

(3.) An Apostolic Exhortation is a document by the Pope explaining certain matters of doctrine, disciplines or practices, usually does not contain new teachings but is used to "exhort" the faithful to follow certain teachings and/or practices. It is commonly issues by the Pope after a Synod of Bishops

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Where God Dwells

I am reading "The Cistercian Way" by Andre Louf, and am often having to stop and "process" parts of this book. There are concepts that have been introduced to me in my Spirituality classes, but find deeper expression here, making me stop and really contemplate who God is...and who I am.

Here is an excerpt:

"There is a place in every man where God touches him and where he himself is constantly in contact with God. This is simply because at every instant God holds us in being. Ceaselessly we come forth from his hands. The place where this creative contact with God takes place is deep within me. If I can reach it I can touch God. If I can arrive at a point where I can free myself from every other reality and bring the gaze of my spirit to bear on this point exclusively, I can meet God.

Some of the mystics have spoken of this place as an abyss or a well whose dizzying depths draw us like a magnet. Are we not in fact continually haunted by this desire for God, which leads us insensibly towards that reality in ourselves which is both the deepest and most divine part of our being? Other spiritual writers have taken their imagery from height, while others again speak of the pinnacle of the spirit or the fine point of the soul. They invite us to ascend these heights where we will meet God. This place is therefore the most precious centre of our being. There we come forth from the hand of God as his creatures; there we are begotten as his children."

~ The Cistercian Way, p. 72

Is that not profound? This afternoon I read this and had to put the book down, remembering the words of my professor a couple years ago: "God holds you in existence."


If that is true, then it means that no matter who or what we are, we are ALWAYS in contact with God. If we are in a state of mortal sin, we know that He cannot dwell within us for we have severed our relationship with Him. Yet, His contact is still there. He continues to hold us, continuing to be in contact with us. There is always that fine point to which we are drawn, no matter what we have done, no matter how much we might want to deny our source and our ends.

As long as we are living and breathing, that contact is there, and THAT is what draws us to conversion in every moment. THAT is what reminds us how we have come into being, for even if we are in intellectual denial, our souls will still draw us towards our loving Creator who desires that we return His own love.

In reading the second paragraph, I can recall the images used by different mystical writers. St. Faustina speaks of "the abyss of God's Mercy", while St. John of the Cross speaks of the "ascent" to God. Thomas Merton, I believe, also wrote of "ascent".

I think that in my own spirituality, I tend to gravitate towards the safety of the "abyss", not to be confused with something scary and awful, but maybe something more akin to...the womb. It is an interior place where God can be found, where He touches us, beckoning us to find Him even in conscious awareness. We can't get there through self-hypnosis, but only through searching His will, seeking Him sincerely, and cooperating with His grace.

We can't even find Him without His acquiescence and invitation. "Emptiness", in this section, isn't referring to a common interpretation of that, but rather, simply a rejection of distractions which, once removed, help us to focus on God, on His present reality, so that we may descend (or arise!) into that interior place where God touches us, holding us in the palm of His hand.

It is this that I am seeking. It is this contact with God. It is this meeting with my Creator, that ultimately, I want. My search for a Vocation is truly nothing other than a search for this ultimate union with God; this contact from which I was created and to which I am drawn for eternity.

I don't know why God created me, I don't know what He is asking me to do until He calls me into eternity. But I am comforted to know that in every moment, not only am I in the presence of God, but He has never once taken his hand from me nor will He ever.


Antiphon 2:

"Whether we live or die, we are the Lord's"

Antiphon 3:

From him, through him, and in him all things exist; glory to him for ever, alleluia!


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Discouragement and Discernment

In the last week or so, two of my friends have left their respective communities. One was active/contemplative, the other was cloistered. Both were "late" vocations, meaning they didn't enter religious life in their late teens or early 20's.

As a "late" vocation (IF!) myself, I've looked at these friends as a sort of inspiration. I don't mean to say I place undue weight on their decisions, only that their successes give me more hope, and, as I'm learning, their losses are mine, too. I won't say "failures" because leaving a religious community is not a "failure" although the secular world would see it as such.

Secular perspective: case in point:

A woman I know, definitely a late Vocation, was persistent and finally was allowed to enter a cloistered religious community. She was there for a year, was clothed in the novice habit, and then left the community not long afterwards. I didn't know her before she went, but heard about her, and met her after she came back. We first met at the holy water font, over time she learned I was entering discernment, and gave me some of her story. It wasn't scandalous. It wasn't shocking. It didn't scare me away. revealed her humanity, the humanity and love of her community, and the workings of God's grace.

Would that others would hear her story. But they apparently haven't asked.

I have some friends, a married couple, who, whenever they hear her name come up, will say the following, like clockwork:

Wife: "That's a sad story."
Husband "I don't even want to know."

They've BOTH labeled it as a "failure" in their minds.

This is shocking to me, as I happen to know that the wife once discerned religious life and was CERTAIN she was called to it...until she met her husband. Failure? Or success?

What's even MORE shocking is that they "don't want to know." Why not?

Their desire to refuse to want to know does not speak of virtue, but speaks of judgment, assuming something awful.

I know the story. There was nothing awful. It was discernment.

My friends leaving...nothing awful there, either. Just discernment. That's why NO ONE takes vows immediately; there are MANY reasons for leaving. They may be called to religious life but not THAT particular community. They may be called to marriage, but perhaps needed the monastic experience and resulting abiliy to think clearly and pray with devotion for God's will.


I can't help, though, but feel a bit discouraged by the disappointment that belongs to my friends. It must be very difficult for them, and clearly, they love their communities and have not left in angst or anger or any such thing. They have not "failed" at religious life. Rather, it is a success, for through their experiences, they have come closer to God, to knowing God's will for them, and in taking a leap, they have learned trust and continue to do so.

Truly, there is nothing but beauty in their experience and the wisdom they've gained.

Oh, yeah, I was speaking of discouragement.

You see, I experience cognitive dissonance; I can objectively look at the situation and say wonderful things, but the reality is that I don't FEEL what I'm saying. I'm still discouraged. It's not the fault of my friends. In fact, I'm primed for and EXPECT discouragement.

That's my particular Cross, actually. It's one of the reasons I can't truly TRUST.

Our secular culture doesn't help. I look at what my friends, and others I've known, have overcome in order to follow God's call. I've gone from career to career, without support, until I LEFT the careers no one wanted me to enter. Professionally, then, I've been failure after failure. One of the reasons I refuse to tell my immediate and extended family of my discernment is due to my record of "failure".

I've discussed these things with my spiritual director, and over time, more will be discussed, but when I hear those words of my friends, the married couple, I am more depressed than ever.

What if someone helps me pay off my debt..and I don't remain in the convent or monastery? What if I get rid of my townhome (at a huge deficit) I find a home for my dog, and give my car to someone...and then return, with nothing?

What if I enter religious life...and..."fail"?

It doesn't matter that I know that leaving one community isn't a failure. It doesn't matter that leaving two communities also isn't a failure. It doesn't matter that I don't look at my friends and see failure, but success, God's ongoing guidance, and the fact that neither of them are bereft of support. I look at my friends and I see a living witness of God's love.

The reality, for me though, is that I look at myself and my past, the comments of my family on my past, and the comments of my friends on others who have "failed", and...I lose courage.

I know what's coming, and it alternately paralyzes me and makes me defiant.

I know that, first of all, if I enter a community and leave it, I have nowhere to go. I can't live with my Mom, and my brother...well, I love him but he and his girlfriend live together.

And with friends who would classify such an experience by saying, "I don't want to know", there a home there?

Relatives...don't get me started. None of them would be surprised if it didn't work out. And if they had helped me pay off debt, they'd immediately start demanding payment and write up notes and payment plans.

So much of that is my fault, actually. Long story. Don't think badly of my relatives, please. I wouldn't have finished my undergrad without their intervention. But I certainly am not likely to enter or leave religious life with OR without them. How ironic.

It makes me wonder if I look to the monastery as a refuge or a future mistake?

It makes me wonder if I'll ever find home, and if I do, will I recognize it or be always waiting for the next disaster?

With my dysfunctional past, will I know if and when to flee, or will I simply accept dysfunction as the "comforts of childhood" and remain, no matter how awful it is, and become more damaged in the process?

One of the reasons I remained in law enforcement for the time I was there was because I felt like I had to "prove" myself, not to other cops, but to my family. I even have to admit a bit of dysfunction, for the abuse I took in that position was just like the abuse within which I'd been formed as a teenager. In becoming a police officer, I had my family's "respect", especially because of having been successful in spite of so much opposition to their will. And when I left.....well, there are cousins who still don't know that I left, and it's been over 10 years.

I'll never forget one cousin, a few years ago, asking me about it. This particular cousin is a war hero, decorated, etc. He thought I was still a cop. As soon as I told him I hadn't been in law enforcement since 1996, he ignored me.

An aunt once said to me, "Well, we don't tell anyone what you're doing anymore because we never know if it's accurate."


Not much hurts worse than that.

I'm not worried about being "rejected" by a community, for, based on what I know and the experiences of my friends, the parting is always mutual. My parting from law enforcement, hard as it was, was ALSO mutual.

What's difficult is the collateral damage. The friends and acquaintences that not only refuse to understand, but won't even ask. Those who assume the worst, and pass that on through gossip, even not intending to do such, not considering it gossip.

I never really realized that gossip was harmful not only to the person it affects, but those who might proleptically hear it before their own experiences.

Enough with discouragement. Now I'm defiant.

Just as I was defiant in high school and college when I decided I was going to be a cop, so now I am defiant in my desire to pursue God's will for me, even if it means my family will hate me and disown me and reject me.

I don't care if my "friends", down the road, think of me and say, "That's a sad story."

On one IS a sad story! But then was the Passion of Christ and His Crucifixion a sad story.

On the other hand, the rejection of friends and other loved ones is a painful thought, but why invite judgment that hasn't yet been inflicted?

As some might remember, the Cistercians got my attention some months ago, and I was in contact with them. I've also been in contact with the Passionists, got a response, responded...and then...nuthin'.

I'm moving on. I've also been in contact with another community.

Right now, I'm reading "The Cistercian Way", about life in a Trappist/Cistercian monastery, although it really does apply to all monastic life. I have renewed my contact with the community and explained I couldn't read this book (one of the required steps of discernment with them) until I was finished with my semester, and the Vocation Director there confirmed that this delay was wise.

I don't know what I am going to learn from this book, or if I am going to visit this community. I will go if God so wills it, and it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. But that doesn't mean it will be easy. In fact, every step is going to be torture in one way or another.

And with every step, I'll be expecting disappointment. Where others know joy, mine will always be tinted. I'll always be questioning my own motives, for I don't know how to simply BE in the presence of God without such analysis and suspicion, not just on my part but on the part of others.

I'll go to any given community with the assumption that I don't belong there, and I can't seem to assume any different. The sad things is that I create suffering where non exists.

I create my own discouragement, perhaps because that way I'll be less disappointed.

When I look to my friends, those who have left their communities, I don't see failure, but success, for they did what they had to do, with varying support. I hope that, when it's my turn, people will be there for me, too. And maybe one day, I'll be there for someone else.

And right now I hope I can be there for them.

Discernment is Hell on earth, I'm learning. Not much is worse than this. Every step reveals something else that isn't pretty, doesn't seem helpful, and is outright discouraging. Every step is a shard of glass going deeply into the most tender part of our feet. And yet...we go on. Even when we see how others are shedding their own blood, we go on, because it's the only way to get to God and follow Christ.

If our own footprints aren't bloody, then we're not really in His steps, are we?

Please pray for everyone who is discerning their Vocation, and please be willing to bleed right along with them. They can't continue the road to Calvary if you're not willing to help them bear the Cross.

And if you can't help, I only ask that you don't make the Cross any heavier than it is.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

The boy only wanted to give Mother something
And all of her roses had bloomed
Looking at her as he came rushing in with them
Knowing her roses were doomed
All she could see were some thorns buried deep
And the tears that he cried as she tended his wounds

And she knew it was love
It was one she could understand
He was showing his love
And that's how he hurt his hands

He still remembers that night as child
On his mother's knee
She held him close and she opened her bible
And quietly started to read
And seeing a picture of Jesus he cried out
"Momma, he's got some scars just like me."

And he knew it was love
It was one he could understand
He was showing his love
And that's how he hurt his hands

Now the boy's grown and moved out on his own
When Uncle Sam comes along
A foreign affair, but our young men were there
And luck had his number withdrawn
It wasn't that long till our hero was gone
He gave to a friend what he learned from the cross

But they knew it was love
It was one they could understand
He was showing his love
And that's how he hurt his hands

It was one they could understand
He was showing his love
And that's how he hurt his hands

~ The Hand Song, Nickel Creek
lyrics by Sean Watkins & David Puckett

Thank you, to all our Veterans, for giving to us all what you learned from the Cross. We will always remember those who have paid the ultimate price in service to our country.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

There is Our Hope

It's a beautiful day today; the breeze is light, the sun is shining, birds are chirping, and with every step I took while walking my dog, I was grateful to be alive. Caught up in the beauty of creation, I was suddenly struck by the infinite hope alive in the world today.

We so tend to focus, all the time, on the negative, and indeed, there are a LOT of problems in the world. It seems we do nothing but rush headlong from crisis into crisis, never having a moment to even draw a breath.  We put our entire focus into those problems, refusing to lift our heads and acknowledge what is good, what is beautiful, what is true, even in the midst of our darkest hours. 

We gasp out our cries to God for help, but never stop long enough to see that He is already there, and yet we prefer to hold on to our problems with grubby, bloody hands, refusing to stop, look into the Holy Visage of Our Lord, and stretch out our hands so that He can catch us and take our burdens away.  

We have to surrender. Completely. In our pettiness and greed, we even try to make our suffering worse at times, perhaps fearing what might happen if we, for once, let go and entrust everything to God. We say to ourselves, "It can't get any worse", but refuse to believe if we aren't holding on to it, it won't get any better, either.  And so we dig ourselves into a pit.

God waits, He watches. 

That's why it gets so dark sometimes; it's because He sees we're in trouble and comes to help, and when the light is obscured, it is only because Our Lord's shadow has fallen over us as He arrives to carry us AND our burdens.  

Wherever you are, it's a beautiful day.  It's beautiful because God made it, and He made you for the exact moment you are in right now.  And wherever you are, He is there with you, He knows you, He loves you, and He will never abandon you.  We should not find our dark moments to be so dreadful, but rather, hopeful. 

It seems such a contradiction, but did the world ever have a darker moment than when Our Lord was stretched out on the Cross, and having given all, gave up his spirit for the world?

The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.  God became one of us...and we killed Him.

Then the Glory and the Triumph of the Cross was revealed as Christ raised from the dead, and Ascended into Heaven.  

It seems, then, a folly to find hope in the darkness, yet, therin is our own personal imitation of the folly and the glory of the Cross, for we now have the benefit of knowing that the Resurrection is coming.  We know now about Our Lord's Ascension. And we know that one day, He will call our names, and we will go to Him and see Him face to face. 

There is our Hope.  There is our Glory, found only in God.  There is our Savior...behold Him.

He is there, in every moment. Surrender. Trust. Hope. 


Thursday, May 21, 2009

ABC's of Me Meme!

I have been following Happy Catholic for several years now (wow, can't believe I've been blogging long enough to use that word), but I haven't stolen anything from her for awhile.  So, it is my honor and privilege to renew this tradition today, and I'm pleased you're all here to witness the event! 

In a spirit of honesty, though, I should mention that no one "tagged" me. I just decided my blog needs something very obviously fun as my dry humor often gets missed. it is...the ABC's according to Adoro:

A - Attitude: Yeah, I got attitude. So what? Got a problem with that?

B - Born in: Rockford, IL

C - Cat's name: No cats here. My dog would eat them.

D - Dog's name: Fuzzy Butt. No, not really but it's an unusual name and I don't want to be identified through usage of that name! ;-)   She's a German Shepherd and as several people have observed, she has a fuzzy butt!

E - Excited by: Whatever random shiny interesting thing happens to have my attention at any given moment.  Oh, and obviously my Faith and Prayer

F - Field: Roses, violets, and sunflowers. That would be pretty. Or maybe some nice corn.

G - Grateful for: being Catholic, the great gift of Faith

H - Hates: bad theology 

I - Into: Catholicism, prayer,  horses, writing, dogs, reading, rollerblading. All at once, even!

J - Job title: I work in a church and I do lots of stuff.

K - Kinfolk:  large extended family

L - Loves: Jesus!

M - Music: Gregorian chant, Nickel Creek, Evanescence, bluegrass, contemporary Christian, classical, etc etc etc

N - Nickname: Jules (yeah, I stole this but people call me that, too.) Also...Adoro. Oh, and also Crash, Trouble, Giggles, and my favorite from when I worked in adolescent psych, "Bushy-tailed ho!".  Thought that was creative. And weird. I won't tell you what else they regularly called me. 

O - Outstanding achievements: I was named Rookie of the Year my first year as a Ski Patroller (thus the title "Rookie).

P - Pastimes: blogging, writing, reading, walking my dog, watching movies, being a hermit while I can.

Q - Quirks: How much time do you have?

R - Relaxes by: writing, walking/blading, listening to music, praying

S - State of residence: Minnesota

T - Telephone type:  I don't use a telephone to type. I use a keyboard for that. 

U - Usual breakfast:   Coffee and more coffee

V - Vices: the opposite of virtues. I have all of them. Vices I mean. Not virtues.  That's why I go to Confession almost every week. 

W - Wearing: clothing

X - X-ray you last had: left hand after a ski accident that happened before my race started. I had to tape my hand to the ski pole in order to be able to hold on to it.

Y - Yummy dish you make: French Dips!  Secret recipe!

Z - Zoo favorite: Wolves

I tag...well, I don't think I have tagging authority. But if you like it, tag yourself!  Theft is a virtue! know what I mean!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Liturgy of the Hours and Ascension Thursday

I've decided to offer a public service announcement considering that a lot of people are confused about what prayers to use when one is in a diocese where Ascension Thursday has been transferred to the following Sunday. 

This was also my question as I am in such a diocese. 

We are called to obedience.  It doesn't matter if we believe that the Holy Day should be fully honored. For those of us who reside in a diocese where the feast has been transferred, we MUST be obedient to our Bishop, and if we are praying the Liturgy of the Hours, we pray Wednesday Vespers...not Evening Prayer I of Ascension Thursday.   We will do that on Saturday evening in the place of the Sunday Evening Prayer I.  

Those who reside in a diocese that celebrated Ascension Thursday should pray Evening Prayer I of Ascension Thursday and the corresponding compline.  

I'm late with my prayers so haven't prayed Vespers yet, but I have this to offer from the Dialogues of St. Catherine of Siena, on the topic of obedience:

" one at all can reach eternal life if he be not obedient, for the door was unlocked by the key of obedience, which had been fastened by the disobedience of Adam." (p. 282)

"The whole of your faith is founded upon obedience, for by it you prove your fidelity." (p. 285)

A lot of people are going to waste time complaining about the fact the Feast has been transferred in their diocese, and they are going to pray what they WANT to pray based on what they think is right.  That means they will NOT be praying WITH the priests and religious in their own diocese and those throughout the world.  

Disobedience has consequences.  Obedience does, too.   St. Catherine made that quite clear. 


If someone asks you why you blog, or Twitter, or whatever your chosen method of social networking...just explain that you're acting in obedience to the Holy Father's directive!  

Vatican City, May 20, 2009 / 11:21 am (CNA).- Pope Benedict XVI is calling upon young people to evangelize using the Internet as the Church prepares to celebrate the World Day for Social Communications.

At the end of his Wednesday general audience, the Holy Father launched an appeal asking that cyberspace be a place that promotes a "culture of respect, dialogue and authentic friendship where the values of truth, harmony and understanding can flourish."

Speaking English, the Holy Father recalled how in his message for this year's celebrations, "I am inviting all those who make use of the new technologies of communication, especially the young, to utilize them in a positive way and to realize the great potential of these means to build up bonds of friendship and solidarity that can contribute to a better world.

"Young people in particular, I appeal to you: bear witness to your faith through the digital world!" the Pope urged.

"Employ these new technologies to make the Gospel known, so that the Good News of God’s infinite love for all people, will resound in new ways across our increasingly technological world!"

The World Day for Social Communications will be held on Sunday, May 24 this year.


Ah, I KNEW I loved our Holy Father from the moment I laid eyes on him!

I do want to call attention to his primary message, though: he is not just asking us to use the internet and social communications in a general sort of way, but very specifically he calls us to two very important principles:

1. Charity  - "respect, dialogue and authentic friendship"    That means the snarkiness doesn't have a place in social communications.  He's right.  How easily we forget we're talking to real people with real feelings.  How easily we let our emotions get the better of us because we can't see the expressions in others who come across our words.  How easily we are offended where no offense is intended, and how easily we snipe back in anger at someone whose only offense was not being able to reveal the fullness of their humanity through words that are one-dimensional.  

Pope Benedict XVI was right to bring the virtue of Charity to the forefront of his speech.  

2.  Bear Witness to your faith!    Not only is our dear Papa directing us to practice virtue, but to recall our baptismal OBLIGATION to spread the good news!  If we're online, even if our primary purpose is not Catholicism, even if we're in a secular venue, by every word, every "demeanor", we become a representative of the Church.  We bear witness not just through direct evangelization and preaching, but through how we behave when we are online.  We can get into disagreements, certainly, but if we remember charity and react with patience, we'll win far more souls than we would in beating someone over the head with some doctrinal issue (about which it's entirely conceivable we might be explaining incorrectly).   Humility is key. 

And in case you're wondering....yeah.  I feel pretty well condemned right now.  

I'm thinking that the ONLY reason the Holy Father issued this statement is because my blog must have been reported to him and he felt he'd better crack down IMMEDIATELY.  

I'm sorry, dear Papa.  I'll try hard to do better, and hit "save" instead of "publish".  

Monday, May 18, 2009

Return of the Prodigal

NOTE:  This is a re-post of something I first "published" back in February of 2007.  Today I spoke with the subject of the post, only the second time since the day this was written.  It's not that I didn't mean to keep in touch; it's just that life is always in the way of what's really important.  He and his family have been on my mind so much lately, and today, I finally picked up the phone and called.  This person, my "second Dad" promised to keep in touch, and vowed to also make sure his daughter and I also get in contact again.  Without this family...only God knows what would have happened to me. 

Memoir from a cold snowy day early in February, 2007: 

Yesterday I experienced a miracle, the kind of reunion only God can manufacture, with only His timing. And today, I'm still a puddle of gratitude.

I had to attend a religious conference yesterday (for youth and youth leaders), and arrived before others in my group, so just found a spot and waited. A man came and sat near me, and I did a double-take.

I knew that face. Didn't I

A debate in my mind ensued as I considered my options, how to find out who he was without making a complete ass of myself if I was wrong. I could see his name tag, and the name matched, but it could be coincidental. After all these years....

He clearly had not recognized me, so for a moment, I considered just walking away for by then I saw a couple people from my group seating themselves in another area. I wondered why I wanted to run, and then I realized it was my deep sense of shame, IF this was who I thought he was. But I also recognized that if the identity was a match, then this was something orchestrated by God, so I sent up a prayer to help because I didn't have the courage to open the door.

And as you know, reconciliations are God's very dear specialty. I knew that this was a prayer that He would answer.

At the beginning of the conference, they directed us to introduce ourselves to five strangers around us. (I don't mind this kind of thing outside of Mass.)  Perfect. The man turned to me and gave me his first name and the town he was from. It was my hometown, and then, I knew....without a doubt.  I thought my heart would come through my throat and think I might actually have stopped breathing as I walked through the open door. 

I asked him his last name, just to be certain.  He gave it to me, with an odd look on his face, clearly wondering why some strange woman would ask for THAT! 

It was him!

That meant only one thing: that me, being me, well....I knew I had to do something typical of my obnoxious teenage self so that his own memory would be jogged. I knew JUST the thing!

"Dad! Do you remember me?"

He looked at me a moment, attention caught at being called "Dad", and then it dawned on him as he really LOOKED at me.  For the first time in...YEARS.  

I'm crying as I'm writing was such a joyful reunion. There were some people from his town near us, and during a break and some small group sessions with them, he was telling them about our reunion, exclaiming, "She used to live in our house!"

Later when he joined my group for lunch, he told me co-workers and catechists who were at the same table, with tears in his eyes, "Thanks for hiring her...if you hadn't, I wouldn't have seen my little girl again."

You may be asking yourself right now who this man was in my life, for my regular readers realize that my Dad passed away 14 years ago. So no, he wasn't really my Dad. Not by blood.

This man's daughter was my best friend in Jr. High and High School. We actually attended different schools, but outside of those walls, we were inseparable. And when my Mom suffered the most from her bipolar and was hospitalized, I stayed with them. Senior year, when I had to get out of the house because Mom was out of control, it was to their home that I fled. They were my second family.  

They were my ONLY place of refuge, the ONLY place I could go in a moment's notice. 

I would have been lost without them.

I've also since learned that they paid our rent for a few months when Mom was finally hospitalized and then sent to a half-way house, giving us time to get moved out when we all realized Mom would not be moving back there.

When I left my hometown, I literally fled, and only saw my "adopted" family a couple times in college. I did see my friend back in 2000 at one point, but as our lives diverged, so did our friendship. And I've always felt guilty for not keeping in touch.  Yes, there were times, and I still remember our last phone call sometime in 2001.  The friendship was...dead. We were nothing but acquaintances anymore. 

I think it was because I have been so ashamed. When I left town, I had big dreams, like any kid, and when I finally had my chance, I flopped. Because my entire identity was built on the sandcastle of a failed career, I think I associated the love I'd always received from others as connected to what I could do...not who I really was.

For years, I have wanted to get in touch with these families that helped us through our years of horror, but I haven't been able to bring myself to just write a letter out of the blue, or even call. Maybe they'd forgotten me...I didn't know. Maybe they were glad I was gone. I didn't know. Maybe they'd be angry that I'd "forgotten" them. I didn't know. Now it's been more than fifteen years since I last saw him...and now, I know that all my fears were just ghosts.

Yesterday, God brought me face to face with my past and laid all my doubts to rest. And I could finally thank my "second dad" for what he did for me so many years ago.

I am the prodigal daughter, finally reunited with one of the people who helped me to be who I am today.

Thank you, Jesus.


Author's note:  A few days after I composed this post, I wrote a follow-up detailing how this family came to harbor me as a teenager, and what they must have suffered. And I share a portion of their side of the story. Even when we think God has only used others to serve us, we learn that in some way...we were serving them as well.  God doesn't waste ANYTHING. 

Recovering Catholics

Fr. Pelletier has two things to say about this.  I have a few more, (you know me!) but let me start with his first line:

"I know it is meant to be funny, but I do get a little offended when someone declares themselves to be a ‘recovering’ Catholic."

I couldn't agree more!  Even when I wasn't much of a Catholic myself, whenever I heard this term, I'd inwardly cringe. The derision was obvious, and even if that person's statements about the Catholic faith was otherwise...well...relatively benign, it was THAT expressed attitude that revealed their souls.  

I was offended. Deeply offended, in fact, especially after I made a full return to my Catholic faith.   I always could you "recover" from something that God intended to save you, body and soul?  How can you "recover" from Truth...unless you never knew what the Truth was to begin with?

There are a lot of Catholics out there "recovering", or rather, REFUSING to recover, not from being Catholic, but from being fed bad theology at the hands of other Catholics who apparently didn't know any better, and some that probably did.  

Yesterday this very thing came up in our Ecclesiology class. Our professor, a convert to the Catholic faith, said that there is NO other religion that, if the devotee leaves it, says they are "recovering" from it.  You don't hear someone claim to be a "Recovering Methodist" or "Recovering Evangelical" or "Recovering Lutheran".  No. The terminology is RESERVED to the Catholic faith, for only someone who is TRULY a Catholic can so thoroughly denigrate it. 

We always hurt the ones we love the most.  And we are the most hurt by them. 

Those who claim to be "Recovering Catholics" know, on the spiritual level (if not the intellectual) that God has placed a mark on them through their reception of the Sacraments.  They might be rejecting something they don't understand, but God in His grace, designed us so that His hand, once upon us, cannot be erased.  

We can't "undo" sacraments, or their effects.  Those effects are eternal, and they are real. The soul can recognize what the intellect and will may not.  

As offensive as it may be, we have to recognize this fact about people who claim to be "Recovering Catholics."  They aren't recovering;  they're battling against God calling them back to the fold.  Maybe they're bitter and angry and all that, but no matter what they denounce, all their pitiful cries amount to is the temper tantrum of a child who screams repeatedly that he hates his parents and he hates YOU.  Those cries mean nothing. The fact that they are children of God (albeit crabby ones)...can't ever change.  No matter how much they want to object. 

Father Pelletier's second comment addresses those who apparently are asking for "recovery" from being Catholic:

"Sorry, my goal is to help you become a devout and deep believer through the faith."

Amen, Father!  And thanks!

Actually...I STILL need help with that...because I'm a recovering sinner. 

Wait...sorry, no. I'm not yet in recovery...just trying to get there....

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Abortion and Notre Dame

Today, Obama said at commencement, "Let's reduce unintended pregnancy!"

NO! NO!  NO!

The Blessed Virgin Mary's pregnancy was unintended. 

Jesus was a COMPLETELY unintended pregnancy!

My brother was an "unintended" pregnancy...because Mom had been told she'd never have children. By that definition, in spite of the fact that my brother came before me, the doctor's diagnosis didn't change, and although we were wanted and desired, we were not "intended" for our parents did not know we were even possible. Then along came...ME! My imperfect self.  Unintended by Obama's definition. 

Never mind all those who have sexual relations without realizing the natural ends of those sexual  relations. It amazes me that someone can look at such intimacy and be "surprised" at "unintended" results of an action that, as its natural end, is a child.  


I might be a "willed" child, but very likely "unintended".  

I thank God that Mom didn't "decide" to end her "unintended pregnancy".  

Just because a pregnancy is "unintended" doesn't render the created life to be useless or without merit. If anything, ending the life of an unborn child has a greater chance of rendering the life of the mother and father (or whoever makes the "decision")  without merit...not the child they slaughter in the womb.

What is abortion but an act of supreme judgment?   Judge not lest you be judged...

Good luck if you think abortion is A-OK!   Hope your own particular judgment goes better than that to which you just sentenced an innocent child! 

PSST!  If you still HAVE a conscience...there's ALWAYS  time for Divine Mercy....please go there! No matter WHAT you've done or advocated...Jesus is waiting to forgive you.  

He forgave me MY sins....He will forgive anyone...

Saturday, May 16, 2009


It's been a long day at class, and I have a LOT I'd LIKE to say with regard to Canon Law and other things, but I promised I'd type up Charles Cardinal Journet's section on marriage, which follows a section on the nobility of the celibate life.  So, without further ado, here it is: 

At the time when Jovinian made virginity equal to marriage and professed that one cannot exalt the former without debating the latter, St. Augustine ** himself took up the challenge and foxed there the lofty traditional teaching that St. Thomas would later take up. The man who enters into the married state, say the Doctors, accepts the tribulatio carnis of which the Apostle speaks, that is to say, the involvement in exterior concerns. And nevertheless, that man's choice is a good one; there is nothing disordered there; his reason is not surrendered. He follows the law, not of matter, but of the spirit if he accepts the bonds of marriage in view of very pure spiritual ends, which his reason, enlightened by faith, shows him and toward which he will be urged by the divine power of the sacrament of Marriage.  

Theology, since the time of St. Augustine, calls these spiritual ends the goods of marriage. The first and foremost of these is the child, on whom depends, in part, the growth of the Body of Christ here below and, later, the increase of the number of the elect.  The second is the mutual complement that the common supernaturalized life brings to Christian spouses.  The third good is the real, concrete, visible image - through a state of life - of the inseparable union between Christ and his Church; more intimately, it is the image, by a visible society of spouses, of that marvelous love, where egoism is unknown, where sacrifice makes the law. 

Finally, the Church's Doctors whom we are summarizing teach that marriage has become a remedy for the concupiscence that the original Fall unleashed; first of all, in the primary sense that the act to which concupiscence inclines can be without sin only in marriage; next, in the other, more lofty sense that divine grace, conferred by the sacrament of Marriage, strives constantly to choke the very roots of egoism and concupiscence. As a result, if in marriage sacramental grace offers a sure remedy against the fever of concupiscence, abstinence from marriage for the sake of the Kingdom, joined to the practice of spiritual works and the mortification of the flesh, cures that fever more efficaciously and more radically still. 

~  Charles Cardinal Journet, Theology of the Church, pp. 265-266

Please realize that these two posts comprise a tiny tiny piece of a 500 page book, and that he has a GREAT DEAL more to say on the subject.  If you want to know what the Church is...this is a wonderful source.  We did not read it in its entirety for class, but I do hope to do so in the future.


**  There is a footnote in Journet that states:  "De bono conjugali, against Jovinian; De nuptiis et concupiscentia, against the Pelagians; and the corresponding passages from the Retractationes."


Friday, May 15, 2009

A Que Dedicadas?

There's been a phrase going through my mind all evening (which admittedly wasn't very helpful when trying to take my Canon Law test!).  The phrase is one I learned many years ago while preparing to go to Mexico for a semester.  It's a phrase used by the Mexican people which really highlighted, at least at the time, a huge difference in philosophy between our two countries. 

Here, in the United States, if we meet a new person, we might ask them, "What do you do?"   We are fishing for professional information;  where they work, their history, their 5-year plan.  And they tell us that they're an engineer working for x company, or a nurse working for x hospital or clinic, etc.   And we nod and smile and they ask us the same question right back, prompting us to give a similar answer. 

But the question, in Spanish, was "A que dedicadas?"   meaning, "To what do you dedicate yourself?"

That has an ENTIRELY different connotation and meaning.  

They weren't asking for employment information with that question. Rather, their query would go right to the heart of our humanity:  who are we, really?   

If we were to ask someone here what they DEDICATE themselves to, they might be taken aback, thinking it too intimate a question for a stranger to ask.  And yet, they might just answer, and in that answer, tell us a lot more about themselves in even a shapshot than the employment question could EVER capture.   And it's a wild card - one never knows what the other is going to say. 

I had to wonder, then, if someone asked me that question, what would my answer be? To what DO I dedicate myself?  

The implications of this question are amazing. It can help us do an examination of conscience as we look over our day and what we dedicated our time to doing.  It can help us identify our true passions in life, and perhaps help us gain perspective and direction in determining what's really important.   It can help us realize that maybe we aren't living up to our potential. 

For...if we are honest and admit we don't dedicate ourselves, in the very practical sense, to what we are truly called to be doing, then it means we must make a change.  

Tonight I'm going to go to sleep with this thought.  I know what I OUGHT to be dedicated to, and to whom, my life bearing that out?  Even more deeply, I need to consider what I do dedicate myself to; my truest, most profound decisions, those things that bring me the most joy, those things that lead me closer to God.  

I cannot ask this question outside of the context of the will of God, for in order to become holy, I don't want to do anything outside of His will or anything that will prevent me from cooperating with His grace.  

So, to all of my what do YOU dedicate yourself?   ?A que dedicadas?  

Answer if you like....or just ponder...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Purity of the Celibate

Just to answer that eternal question about states in life: 

Not all the states of life are equal. Some are more perfect than others. They can be classified according to their level of perfection. All are ordered, however, to some task of common usefulness;  all are to be justified by their mode of serving the general good of the Church. 

All things being equal, it is not the state of marriage that profits the Church the most. There is more perfection and happiness, as she herself declares it, in remaining keeping celibate than in living in the married state.  The Church is here the simple echo of the Gospel:  "The disciples said to him, 'If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.' But he said to them, 'Not all men can receive this precept, but only those to whom it is given...There are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it"  (Mt 19:10-12).  And St. Paul:  "Now concerning the unmarried, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the impending distress it is well for a person to remain as he is" (1 Cor 7:25-26). 

The purity of the celibate is the purity of the body drained, in a certain sense, by the spirit; it is the absorption of the exigencies of instinct by shoe of the spirit. Virginity makes the body similar to the soul and the soul similar to God. When the number of the elect is complete, the law of reproduction will cease and the law of the spirit will manifest all of its power in the flesh of men: "For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given i marriage, but are like angels in heaven" (Mk 12:25). The purity of married persons is the purity of the body ruled by the spirit, the regulation of the exigencies of instinct by those of the spirit. 

~  Charles Cardinal Journet, Theology of the Church, pp. 264-265

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


It is not easy to follow Christ.

There's a line in John Paul II's Stations of the Cross that always strikes me: he speaks of how it was Peter's love for Jesus that set him up for failure. When Jesus was arrested, Peter followed Him. It was in this act of following Our Lord that his faith was confronted, and he faltered. Not once, not twice, but three times. Thrice, he denied Our Lord.

We are no different. This morning I was pondering my own failures, and how I was so ready to run away from discernment, from any vocation at all.

And then I met the uncondemning gaze of Christ, and was ashamed. No one ever said discernment is easy. It's not. It's brutal. To discern one's vocation is to follow Christ into the very pits of Hell, if He so beckons. It means to come under the same scourge, to be weighed down, with Him, under the weight of the Cross. It means we must have a willingness to stretch out our own hands and offer everything we have, everything we are, everything we have ever been or will ever be. It is an act of total surrender.

That very act is what brings us to failure. Not God's failure, but ours. We have to confront ourselves. We have to fall to the ground and die so that He can raise us up to new life.

Even outside of the context of discernment, all of us, in following Christ, has to enter into His Passion and pass through it. It's the only way to become who we are called to be as children of God.

We have to become vulnerable and risk everything so that Our Lord can act in us. We have to be willing to set ourselves up for failure for it is only through those failures that we can be purified and learn humility.

If we truly desire to know Christ, and claim that we love Him, we have to be willing to follow Him everywhere, no matter how often or how hard we fall. He will never abandon us.

Will we abandon Him?