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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gov'mint Cheese and Powdered Milk

On this Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, in the Year for Priests, I was going to post some more of her commentary on the Priesthood and the dignity of Priests. But I couldn't write that post today.

Instead, in her spirit, in honor of her life and her charism, I direct you, my readers, towards those she served most often, and to whom she dedicated her life:  The Unloved. The Forgotten. The Sick and Infirm.

Many think of the GREAT things St. Catherine did, including her role in ending the Avignon Captivity and the restoration of the true Pope.

Many try to misuse her name in favor of the laughable efforts of the "womynpryst" crowd in abusing her image for themselves with regard to their assessment of "speaking truth to power.".  Methinks St. Catherine would have something quite severe to say to such a crowd that does so much to taint the face of the Bride. Being a Catholic has nothing to do with "power": it has to do with service, and more importantly, our Vocation to Holiness.

The very moment "Power" enters into the conversation, holiness and salvation are no longer relevant. Oh, do I wish St. Catherine could speak today!

But, as usual, I digress.

Tonight....tonight, I speak to something dear to St. Catherine's heart. It has nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with humanity and God's holiness...and therefore, her holiness.

A Brief History

Many don't know that St. Catherine was cloistered in her own home for three years, serving as Anchoress to those who came to her for spiritual direction.  God Himself called her to this cloister, wherein He spoke to her through mystical experiences, but finally directed her Himself to leave the cloister to help her mother and to serve the poor.

St. Catherine was obedient, left the cloister of her room and like our modern Blessed Mother Teresa, went to serve the worst of the worst, and to great criticism.  She was never without both physical and personal persecution in her response to God's will.

She was not a feminist. She was not a politician. She was simply and purposefully a willing instrument of God in a world desperate for His Divine Love. As such, all she did was done according to God's will, and from what I know of her, she may well have been privy to the Divine Processions, and as such, to abuse her charism for political or ideological gain is an outright blasphemy. Let God be the Judge.

My Friends...St. Catherine is an EXAMPLE...stop trying to make her an exception to the rule

We are ALL called to holiness!

We are ALL called to grow  in holiness!

St. Catherine shows us all by her own example that before we can truly serve others and bring them to Christ, we must first be formed ourselves, and yes, that might be a very painful process!  For some (dense people like me) we need more advanced intellectual formation to feed our spiritual growth. Others are in more need of solid formation in prayer, which require, as a foundation, the basic tenants of our faith...such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Unfortunately, for the last 50 years + (even beyond, far beyond the Second Vatican Council) that formation has been absent.  This is one of the reasons for the Council; to answer this deprivation of formation.

The fact is this:  If we go out to serve the poor and unfortunate out of a natural desire to help them, that is a good thing. But without a foundation in Christ, it is mere secular social work and has no eternal merit for either our spiritual growth or that of those we serve.

We are not called to be Government employees;  we are called to bring souls to Salvation in Christ!  

We can't give what we don't have, and if we don't take the time for supernatural formation, then all we have to offer is the spiritual equivalent of "Gov'mint cheese and powdered milk." **

This is one of the greatest messages of the life of St. Catherine;  like Christ, she lived by example. She spent time in deep prayer, and in her extraordinary case, was supernaturally formed by God Himself.

Most of us, no matter what our Vocation, don't have the benefit of such a grace of  mystical marriage with God, but that does not excuse us from our own foundational spiritual formation in accordance with our proper state in life. At a minimum, we MUST attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day, we MUST, if we really want to serve God, attend more often as we are able, and seek to cultivate a life of prayer. The prayer of a wife or husband is not the same as a contemplative nun or monk, and the prayer life of a child usually doesn't match that of a priest. Yet we are all called to make Our Lord the center of our lives, through the Sacraments, thorough ongoing conversation with God...without which we can NEVER attain holiness and salvation.

We, all of us, as Catholics, are called to be formed, not just for ourselves, but to go out and form others. To serve others, to be Christ to others, leaven to the world, salt of the earth. To bring loved to those who are not loved.

There are no exceptions to this. There are different callings...but no exceptions.

Who Around You Subsists on Gov'ment Cheese & Powdered Milk?

Do you even know?

Who is your brother?  Who is your sister?

Many years ago, when I was a rookie police officer, still in Field Training, I was sent to my first Death Investigation.  We were called to "check the welfare" because the person's newspapers were piling up outside his door. The landlord was present with us when he keyed in and we discovered the resident of that apartment was dead.  He'd been there for a few days....and no one noticed.

Only the newspapers piling up outside his door gave a cue only the Landlord...that something was wrong.

No one else called. Not family. Not friends.

The Landlord. The guy he paid to live in that building, in that place. And when a payment wasn't due, he wasn't noticed. Think about it:  the only person who noticed something was the person being paid to notice, and he barely knew him.

We checked the dead man's phone. Nothing on the answering machine.

This guy was invisible to everyone but his landlord, who noticed his stack of unread newspapers.

This guy is your brother, and he died alone, and it took DAYS for someone to notice.

To St. Catherine, he would not have been invisible. To St. Catherine, he would have been noticed. He would not have died alone.

If we learn anything from St. Catherine it should be that our love for our neighbor flows from our love for God, and if we do not love God, we cannot properly love our neighbor.

Look around you. Take a hint from St. Catherine, and if there are any near you who are unloved, hard to love, or invisible, reach out to them.

Maybe your effort to reach out to one soul won't change the world, but it might save a soul, or at the very least, ensure that maybe that soul won't die alone and forgotten.

St. Catherine...pray for us!  

Those of you who, like me,  grew up on Commodities will understand this reference to "Gob'ment cheese and powdered milk". Outside the US...leave a comment and one of us will define.) 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Da Heretic is IN DA HOUSE!

Define Irony:

I begged and pleaded and prayed that one of our 2 class electives for my Master's program would be Christology. That beg/plea/prayer was answered and in this, our last semester, we are studying Christology. I love the class, I love our professor, and while sitting in the class itself, it all nearly seems clear! What is stated makes sense, what I write down makes sense, and I have come to appreciate the necessity of a philosophy degree when seriously studying theology (especially because I don't HAVE a philosophy background).

So I went to work on my first Christology paper...and managed to turn in heresy, albeit a really minor one that came down to a simple misuse of a term. Easily fixed.  That same month I turned in a heretical Social Ethics paper. Great. Good news:  I'm a material heretic who reasons just like Augustine. I think it's a compliment.

Last month I worked hard on Christology paper #2, finding that what was so "clear" in class was not so clear at home, and for the first time in 3 years I nearly called my professor to explain the ENTIRE CONCEPT to me. But no, I thought. I am nearing the end of my degree program and I NEED to be able to "reason" out these problems. I won't always have my professors. I KNOW the answer is in my text and  in the Summa....and other places. The question we had to answer is a doctrine of the Faith!

So I struggled and angsted and finally stuck a fork in the paper, turning it in with a caveat to my prof: "I have no idea what I'm talking about, but here it is anyway.  I'm sorry."

I got the paper back today....huge heresy. HUGE! Thankfully he pinpointed my exact area of confusion and told me what it was. And you know what?  IT MAKES PERFECT SENSE NOW! *scratching head*...sorta... *cough*.

I've resolved that if anyone ever asks me about Person and Christ, I'll simply explain that Jesus is the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, He is fully human and fully divine, He is the Son of God, and if that is not sufficient, I'll point them towards a faithful Theologian who actually understands Person and Christ.

I'm so frustrated! I want to understand, and yet, I see how completely unequipped I am to grasp what is probably a simple concept for others.

I still got a good grade on the paper, probably because I made all the right arguments, but without the key that  could unlock them. The prof knows we struggle with this, he intended it to be a difficult paper, and it was. Not to torture us, but to help us learn how to put these difficult concepts together. I didn't get a good grade because of what I know, but, I think...because of the way I put together what I do know, even though it has fallen short.

My intent is to be faithful and to understand...and to know what I need to know to earn this degree. And of become holy.

Therein is the lesson. I'll graduate with my Master's not with a course in Christology, but in gaining through Christology, an experience of humility. Of realizing the limits of my own understanding, that no matter what I have behind my name, now or EVER, I won't ever be able to grasp everything and I will NEVER, on this side of Heaven, be able to fully grasp the mystery of God Incarnate.

Over the last three years of studies, more and more I've learned that, well, the more I've learned, the more I recognize my deficit of knowledge.

It underscores the point of getting a "Masters" degree.  One who has this degree isn't an expert. Rather, it is the threshold to something more, an entry point only.

Anyone who graduates with a Master's degree and considers themselves an expert or a "Theologian" **, well...wasn't paying attention.

I'm happy, therefore for my chance to be a heretic; better now, when my thought processes can be corrected and my errors pinpointed, than later on where I might lead souls astray with no one to snap a muzzle on me. God knows that's what happened to Hans Kung, Charles Curran, and Notre Dame's Rev. McBrien, professional dissident.

They didn't start out to be unfaithful. Nor do I. But there, but for the grace of God, (and good, holy, faithful  professors), go I.


Author's Note/ Definition of terms:

** My understanding, based on what my professors have stated, is that, to be considered to be an authentic Theologian one must, at minimum, possess an STL or STD degree.  This EWTN article places it at a Master's level in some cases. In spite of what it says, I would NEVER call myself a "Theologian" I simply don't know enough to claim such an auspicious title, and honestly, don't know any MA's or MTS's that could really be considered to know enough to be a "Theologian". 

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Here is your litmus test for anything you will ever do:


Seriously, look around you and consider all the petty "debates" (loosely defined) going on, everyone trying to get the fabled "upper hand."  Everything is rhetoric. Everything is "my opinion" versus "your opinion" but where in this is there room for GOD'S opinion?

Oy, what an archaic idea, that God would have something to say.  I'm not speaking in this posts to atheists. I'm speaking to declared Christians of all walks, and most particularly to practicing Catholics who are, presumably, seeking holiness. In other words...those who want to be Saints.

I am outright shocked at the number of "professed Catholics" who are jumping on the bandwagon in a protest that actually does nothing other than back up a controversy brought about by a couple anti-everything guys made popular by the irreverent to everything Comedy Central.

First...have you all lost your minds??

Second...what happened to your quest for holiness?

Can we just cut through the crap on this?  

Imagine yourself approaching the Pearly Gates, entering, and being brought to the Throne of Judgment. There you are, before God. You, and you alone. Ponder that now. All you have done wrong. All you have done right. It's all there; transparent, all interior motivations revealed in all the agonizing pridefulness and humiliation.  (It won't be a pleasant experience for anyone). you REALLY think that drawing a picture of Mohammed in order to thumb your nose at extremists glorifies God?  Do you REALLY labor under the misapprehension that God is going to view that act of juvenile idiocy and say to you, "Oh, what a holy thing you did, how original, now take your place at my left hand"?


EVERYTHING we do as Catholics should be ordered to salvation; ours and that of others.

The second we lose that focus, we tend to buy into stupid stunts that just glorify ourselves and leave God in the dust.

To those of you who are buying into the "Let's draw a pic of Mohammed" idiocy, ponder, and maybe try to answer the following:  How, exactly, is ripping on the "holy objects/ persons" as defined by other religions making Catholicism more palatable?  How does it glorify God? How does such stupid "retaliation" make any kind of reparation to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary? And to you in particular, how does drawing Mohammed save YOUR soul, and the souls of others?

Are you REALLY planning to stand before God with this plan, expecting a golden ticket?


Thursday, April 22, 2010


Between work and school and trying to keep a  handle on my personal life right now, I'm so stressed out I'm ready to scream.

The only reason I don't is because I realize screaming won't actually solve anything.

I haven't had a day off in weeks, especially considering that my last "weekend" 2 weeks ago was filled with intense stressful paper-writing that essentially went nowhere. Then we had a class weekend...which isn't time off, of course. And then straight into work.

Tuesday I was sick and so traded my "day off" this week, so got nothing done...but catching up on sleep and wondering if I had a fever and what that meant for the rest of my work week where taking time off wasn't an option.

Yesterday was a long, late day at work. Today was a 12 hour day, and I DIDN'T want to be there. I wanted to be home, resting, working on my last papers. Or at least trying to gather myself. But no.

I have nothing but "events" going on this week and next week at work. One thing to the next without any real time to actually prepare for it. It's just GO-GO-GO-GO-GO-GO!. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Tonight, as I was at one of those "events" which, as usual, was actually coming together while we were doing it (as opposed to knowing concretely what was going to happen before it know, the way most people run events), just before I had to speak, something hit me...yet again.

I realized what a privilege it is to speak of Christ and our Salvation. To provide Church teaching on the Sacraments, on our Faith...on Our Lord. To go before a group of people and announce that yes, I am there because I'm in love with Jesus, but only because He loved me first.

It's a privilege, not only in participating in this lofty endeavor of handing on the Faith, but to realize I'm doing so in a place where I'm not likely to lose my life for doing so. And those people who attended weren't going to risk death to learn about God.

Yes, I'm stressed out and overwhelmed and can't wait to have a day off (Maybe Monday and Tuesday, if I'm lucky!), but I know in all the insanity that is involved in parish work, I have to remember that none of it is for me. I'm not doing it for myself. I'm doing it for God's glory and to build up His Kingdom, according to His Command and my Baptismal obligation.

I may actually fail miserably in my efforts, but I know, without a doubt, that especially where I fail, somehow God' grace will succeed such that everyone will know and recognize that Jesus is Lord.

Thank you, Jesus.

It's your Church. I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Imitation of Christ - A Good and Peaceable Man

The following text is taken from Chapter 3 of Thomas a' Kempis' Imitation of Christ :

Keep thyself first in peace and then thou wilt be able to bring others to peace. 
A peaceable man does more good than one that is very learned.
A passionate man turns every good to evil and easily believes evil. 
A good peaceable man turns all things to good. 
He that is in perfect peace suspect no man, but he that is discontented and disturbed is tossed about with various suspicions; he is neither quiet himself nor does he suffer others to be quiet. 
He often says that which he should not say, and omits that which would be better for him to do. 
He considers what others are obliged to do, and neglects that to which he himself is obliged. 
Have, therefore, a zeal in the first place over thyself, and then thou mayest justly exercise thy zeal towards thy neighbor. 

2. Thou knowest well enough how to excuse and color thine own doings, and thou wilt not take the excuses of others. 
It were more than just that thou shouldst accuse thyself and excuse thy brother. 
If thou wilt be borne with bear also with another.
See how far thou art yet from true charity and humility, which knows not how to be angry with anyone, or to have indignation against anyone but one's self. 
It is no great thing to be able to converse with them that are good and meek, for this is naturally pleasing to all. And everyone would willingly have peace and love those best that agree with them. 
But to live peaceably with those that are harsh and perverse, or disorderly, or such as oppose us, is a great grace, and highly commendable and manly. 

3. Some there are who keep themselves in peace and have peace also with others.
And there are some that are neither at peace within themselves, no suffer others to be in peace; they are troublesome to others, but always more troublesome to themselves. 
And some there are who keep themselves in peace and study to restore peace to others.
Yet all our peace in this miserable life is rather to be placed in humble sufferings than in not feeling adversities. He who knows how to suffer will enjoy much peace. 
Such a one is a conqueror of himself and lord of the world, a friend of Christ and an heir of Heaven.

Ouch. That's all I have to say about that.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Charity in Blogging

I'm about to go off on a rant, but maybe not the kind people like. I don't happen to enjoy it myself, but I'm going to say it anyway because it needs to be said. (Yes, I know every ranter thinks like this. Fasten your Rosaries and Divine Mercies anyway)

This weekend in class, our professor shone a light on some of the things I've written about here, but he stated it in a way that helped me both to see more clearly and convict me more directly.

Look around the blogosphere. Look at the most "popular" blogs. Look at who is being followed and regard  the comments.Consider the CONTENT of the blogs with the greatest number of followers.

What do they write about most often? What position are they taking?

Most whose expense are they taking it? To whose glory?

As our professor pointed out; we humans, in our fallen nature, have this terrible inclination, almost a reflex, to put others down in support of our own opinions. He further pointed out that in so doing, if our "opinions" are actually official Church teaching, putting others down to edify it doesn't work. In fact, it does the polar  opposite.

I don't repeat this here apart from my own bloody-guilty hands. Believe me; my own keyboard is caked with the blood of people I've verbally scourged and at my own particular Judgment I'll have to answer for their souls and the souls I've damaged through such scandal.

As my professor was speaking, I considered many of the blogs I follow, as well as those I have actually stopped following in the last few months. Last night I took a few minutes and browsed my blog feed, and was shocked at how many "faithful" bloggers spend the majority of their time tearing down what they see as "the enemy" even though that person might well be sitting in the pew next to them.

As my professor pointed out:  we spend so much time glorifying ourselves while putting down others that the house next door is burning and we can't even hear the screams for help.

Being a faithful Catholic isn't about right or left or liberal or conservative. Most people don't even know what those terms really mean! I know people who claim to be "conservative" Catholics but can't be bothered to go to Mass on Sunday. I know people who claim to be "liberal" Catholics and toe the line but dislike Gregorian chant!

And yet, it seems to be a knee-jerk reaction for us to immediately pigeonhole someone into this or that camp, and then smear them for a position or belief they don't even hold!

We need to remember the theological virtue of Charity and live by it...not just spout the word.

True Charity wills the good of another, and in willing that good, sees that other as, first and foremost, someone for whom Jesus DIED a horrible death.

We CANNOT, as bloggers, base our blogs on tearing down others in order to make ourselves look good in the eyes of other sinners like us who will be fueled to add their own gripes, their own judgments, and their own form of superiority at the expense of sinners who apparently aren't like us.

There are those who are in error because they've never been taught differently, and are advancing those errors not out of intent to destroy the Church, but out of simple, inculpable ignorance. And there are those who know the true doctrine, and so are called to proclaim it...but not at the expense of the souls they destroy in operating as smug self-important jerks as they "Anathema sit!" all over the place in the diarrhea they fancy as their theological "expertise."

Unfortunately, this category isn't limited to lay bloggers, but includes members of the clergy as well, and the scandal they (snarky Clergy bloggers) cause by such practices does even greater damage.  Heck, if Fr. X and Y can say such things, then so can I, and gosh, if I write like they do, then I gain esteem not just in their eyes but in the eyes of THEIR following....etc.

Yeah. That's what happens, folks.

Not cool.

Where, in all that, is there room for God's Glory?  Where, in all this Catholic infighting, in all these condemnations and anathemas, is there room for the virtue of Charity?



Yes, we know that this or that parish on the corner or in this or that city has some major problems, and that it has become malformed Fr. XY's own personal litterbox. Whatever. Yes, we know souls are being led astray.

Since when does yelling and screeching and shaming about these things actually effect conversions?

It doesn't. It chases people away. Not just those against whom such tirades and derision are directed, but those who witness it as well.

As bloggers, as knowledgeable Catholics, we have a greater duty to respond to the Faith we have been given. We have a greater duty to exercise justice subordinate to mercy, subordinate to charity...and to know what that actually MEANS.

If we don't know what that is an act of charity to be silent, not just for the souls of others...but for our own.

I'm sorry, truly sorry, for the scandal that I have caused and I am working hard not to do so ever again. I know that my apology means nothing to those whom I have scandalized, for they are not here to read it.

I beg those who are my readers to forgive me for causing scandal, and that you pray for those souls I've chased away out of my own pride in seeking my own glory at both their and YOUR expense.

I can't speak for other bloggers, nor do I judge their souls, but I do judge their actions and this, in particular.  Do we need to shine a light on what is wrong at times?  Certainly! The Church Fathers were not adverse to such things!  The modern question is this, though:  Is it really necessary to focus our lives on ripping on thy neighbor in order to proclaim the Truth?


The Truth doesn't need a defense. It simply requires an intelligent statement of fact backed up by actually living it through the theological virtues, especially that of the divine charity of Jesus who died for the very worst of sinners.

Including bloggers.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Present Moment

I fully admit I struggle hard to live in the present. Life is busy, and I'm always rushing on to the next task, and even at leisure my mind jumps around in consideration of what I'll be doing when not resting or playing. When I'm working on writing one paper for school, I can't help but think about the work I'm not doing in that moment on another paper. At work when I run to the chapel for a few moments to pray morning prayer, I find that I rush through the prayers. It never fails that I get there and remember that I have to finish this or that task, call this person, write a letter to that person, or start on the work required for an upcoming event. With apologies to Our Lord I leave the chapel and haven't even a single line from a psalm, or an antiphon to ponder for I can't seem to take the time to allow even HIM to speak to me!

Such is life. I know I haven't described anything unusual; we all experience this. (Well, most of us. I realize there are a few of you who have managed to master these tendencies!)

One of the things I admit I loved about my convent/monastery visits last summer was the ability to freely embrace the present moment. When I was in the chapel praying, there wasn't anything else I needed to be doing. When I was in the bakery doing dishes, I was not expected at any other task. There wasn't anyone I needed to call, and as I was there on a retreat, no one needed to call me.

As spiritually difficult as that retreat was, it was also very freeing in that I could finally be open to the spiritual difficulties! So much is lost when we're so busy and distracted that we can't take the time to have an intense relationship with God!

I'm a very time-oriented person, which is typical of most Americans. Our lives are run by the hours on the clock, which decentralizes the focus that should be upon God's will for us in each and every moment. In the convent, of course, their schedule is also very time-oriented, but within that time there was also an intensity of focus on the spiritual life that places God at the center. Although the Sisters did go from task to task, there was an orderliness to it that does not exist in most of our lives. 

I can't say I became fully accustomed to their schedule in only the seven days of my stay, and in fact, to my surprise I was exhausted at the end of that week! It wasn't that the labor was difficult; it is rather that I was living more intensely and more truly than in my so-called "real life". 

There is great beauty in religious life. There is order which doesn't detract from God, but places Him at the center. One learns to surrender one's own will, not to the hours on the clock, but the needs of others. When I had to leave prayer to go to the bakery, I wasn't doing this for myself, but to serve others who needed my assistance. That was God's will for me in that moment. The silence maintained throughout the day kept prayer at the forefront, and I knew that later, I would be returning to the chapel again to be in Our Lord's Presence. 

Perhaps it is not possible to fully translate such a way of life into the insanity of the world for most of us, but we can work on keeping the spirit of prayer, we can work on maintaining greater interior silence and constantly try to turn our interior focus to God no matter what we are doing. God is always in the present moment, even when we're busy and distracted.

I'm so thankful for what I learned on my discernment retreats last summer; they carried lessons I had read about, but couldn't practice as they can only be internalized through experience. When I become too distracted to pray, I admit a part of me longs to be back in that chapel without all the craziness of my life, but it is here that I recognize I am missing the point yet again. If God wanted me there, I would be there. For now, it is quite clear that He wants me right here, right where I am; He is right here, too. He knew these words before I wrote them, and He knows my deepest longings even though I can't yet understand them myself.

In all things, God's will be done.

"Surrender to God, and he will do everything for you. Alleluia!"
~ Antiphon 1 from the Office of Readings

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I've often said that I don't have a "biological clock" like so many other women seem to have. In my adult years, I've never had a desire to have children, and actually, have been made to feel very badly about that; as if I was lacking something "normal."

I was once told, by a priest, upon learning that I wasn't interested in getting married and having children, that without that desire for biological motherhood, I could not be a good religious sister.

I'd be lying if I said that his comments did not have a detrimental effect on my vocational discernment.  From that very moment, I think I stopped really discerning, because if what he said was true, then it was not possible for me to be a religious. It was a slammed door that left me in limbo.

I didn't understand at that time what "spiritual motherhood" was, or that the intuition that I was not called to be a mother in the biological sense was actually not a sign of "not being good enough" for Jesus, but should have been a sign to both me and that priest to look more deeply into God's designs.  Instead, for a couple years, I walked away, certain that, since I didn't want children, I couldn't possibly be wanted by Jesus Himself. I went away sad, thinking that something was very, very wrong with me; so much so that God Himself would reject me if I truly sought Him.

Now, to be fair to the priest, he came from a different culture, and I honestly believe that his own cultural experience and perhaps faulty formation, or even lack of ability to communicate what he really meant was not adequate to address what I was really seeking at that time. It is years later now, and I don't think badly of the priest, nor should any of you. But that doesn't change the fact of my experience and what went through my head, my heart, and straight to my soul at that time...and in the years following that terrible and destructive  conversation.

I suspect that this has happened to other women, perhaps to be blamed upon the confusion brought about by radical feminism which has done so much damage to so many souls.  There is a huge difference between a woman who senses from her very soul that she is not called to motherhood versus a woman who outright rejects motherhood for selfish reasons.  For my part, I was once one of the latter, but when I finally began seeking God, even though I didn't think I wanted children, I told God over and over again that I would trust in His decision for me. At that moment, I opened to life, if called to marriage.

I do not at heart think, even now, that I am called to marriage. I have no interest in marriage, nor in dating. I am not looking for "a partner" of any sort.  That's not to say I'm not attracted to men! On the contrary! Gosh, every so often I meet a guy and lose about a hundred IQ points, and in the most RANDOM of places!  This is actually a sign that I am actually a very normal woman!

However, though, along with that lack of call to marriage, I also am not bothered by the fact that I will never have children. I love children, and they seem to love me, but I don't mope around pining for a little bundle of joy or the pitter-patter of little feet. Now, when I hear people in certain camps suggest that women who don't sense that draw are somehow disordered, I look more closely at the source, and find that their beliefs don't line up with Catholic teaching on the nature of Vocation.

We are all called to something. Because of that, it means, obviously that we are NOT called to other things.  Not every woman is called to be a biological mother. Not every man is called to be a biological father.

None of this is new for the faithful Catholic who prays every day, or even every week, for Vocations to the priesthood and/or religious life.  This is one of the most beautiful teachings of the Church; that God calls us all out of eternity to fulfill a particular mission with regard to Salvation of souls, and as part and parcel of that Mission He calls us to a specific Vocation with which to live it out and find our way to Him ourselves.

It took me a long time to really understand that spiritual motherhood has its own call, one separate, but which is an important counterpart to the other call to biological motherhood.  Each facet supports the other. One cannot be a true spiritual mother and support abortion. One cannot be a biological mother and reject spiritual motherhood.

This evening, though, I think I finally found the words to articulate the no-man's land that I inhabit as a single woman, and it reveals WHY just being a mere "Single" is not a Vocation:

As created beings, we have within us the desire to reproduce, to co-create with God. We all have this creative force within us, this incredible creative ability. Especially as women, we recognize that, if called to biological motherhood, God  touches us at a very certain point and creates new life. Not just a combination of DNA, but an entirely new SOUL to infuse the DNA, imprinting upon it His own likeness and image! It is a miracle, it is a tender moment begotten out of the Divine love of God!

Ah, yes, procreation is a beautiful thing! Only our Salvation through the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ is more stunning!

For me, though, although I appreciate the beauty of new life, I do not desire it for myself. Every so often I experience a twinge of regret and anew, search my soul for the meaning of this, looking for defect. Unfortunately, I find many defects, and it is very discouraging.

What I forget to look for is the beauty in my own state in life, and the beauty of, as a friend put it once, "being set aside".  In the Bible, many women were "set aside". Not out of ignorance, but for a special purpose. It's not an occasion of  Pride, but rather a recognition of something different, something particular for which they  have been created. In my case, it doesn't matter that I don't yet understand what that is. What matters is that I realize there are legitimate options, and those options do not depend upon me, or come from me, or glorify me. No. They all glorify God.

Tonight I was watching a random TV show, and I admit I felt a twinge when considering the family and children on the show. It wasn't a twinge of jealousy or the sense of that proverbial "biological clock."

Instead, it revealed to me the nature of Vocation, fully in union with the Mission of the Church. In that moment, I understood what the Single life is lacking and why it isn't a Vocation, and can never be so.

I've said before, and I say it now, drawing from solid Catholic resources:  a Vocation involves a formal Consecration, a Vow. Anything that floats around without an anchor is just a temporary state.  The Church, for this reason, recognizes only Three Vocations:  Priesthood, Marriage, and Religious Life (Consecrated Life).  There are some forms of Consecrated Life that do not involve living in community, and I suspect this is why some people mistake it as a "Single Vocation". It is not. Consecrated Virgins and Eremitics are not "Single" in the Vocational sense; they are formally espoused to Christ Himself.

They are not dangling participles. That's what I am, and I hang out with question marks.

The Consecration of each Vocational state in life is linked to permanency, and thus, a certain responsibility.  Something, or more commonly, someone in their charge. It had a particular charism, and a specific Apostolate, or in the case of the Priesthood, a ministry.

A parent is confirmed in their Vocation through their children, who were co-created by them and depend upon them. They are responsible for them.

A Priest is the spiritual Father to a congregation, and even beyond. He is a spiritual Father to any soul that comes his way...any soul.

A Religious, be it Sister or Brother, or Consecrated Virgin or Hermit, likewise; there is spiritual parenthood present within their area of responsibility.

I know that what is lacking in my life is that area of formal responsibility. We all desire, inherently, even unconsciously, to leave a legacy. For some that is biological, which implies also the spiritual. For others, it is simply spiritual, and when the focus is on that, it is still just as important, if secondary to biological life.

Tonight I looked around and realized that I am lacking because I am not directly responsible for anyone. I have a house, I have stuff, I have a dog. Anyone can pay for 4 walls and care for a dog. Although I pray for priests, and have "adopted" a few, that doesn't mean I'm Consecrated to that purpose. I've made no formal vows. I don't have any formal obligations outside of those of any other person in the secular world.

I'm not directly responsible for another human life, or by extension, their soul.

That is at the heart of a Vocation;  Responsibility. Chosen and accepted responsibility. It is a calling, only to be followed by a choice; to reject or accept.

For now, I am in waiting, and I accept that fact. I see this sign of desiring to be responsible as a mark of Grace. That is not to say I am immature for my age (although that may be quite true!), but rather, a sign that in the order of grace, in the order of God's plan for Salvation, that I have been  in formation under His hand and perhaps am nearing the next level.

No one becomes a parent from infancy.

Do not take these thoughts as dogma, but only the musings of a woman who once thought she had the world in her hands, only to realize the joke was on her.

How to Study Social Ethics and Write a Paper

Some of you may remember last winter's treatise on How to Study Theology.

Well, I'm back with a lesson today on how to study Social Ethics and write a paper.

1.  Gather your study materials, turn off tv, radio, ipod, etc.  Make sure you have good lighting, working pens, hi lighters, and tabs to mark the pages.

2. If you haven't already, complete the reading to familiarize yourself with the subject material for your paper.

3. Get out your notebook and begin taking notes or making your outline regarding the subject. You may have to complete this portion before you can actually begin the paper as you will need to write an opening paragraph identifying what you will be covering and the conclusion you have drawn.

4. Make note of main points and any quotes you plan to use so that you can identify the source at that time without wasting time searching for it again.

5. Look up at the dog lying on the rug, and notice that she is shedding. Surmise that it must be very itchy and uncomfortable for her.

6. Find your favorite grooming tool and spend some time carefully working on removing the shedding hair and maybe even matts that you've neglected. Comfort the dog and apologize when you pull a bit too hard and she jumps.

7.  When one side is completed, ask if she wants a biscuit and provide said biscuit promptly so that she will know that grooming is a good experience, even if it is contrary to her actual lived experience.

8.  In the kitchen, notice the click of dog nails on the Pergo flooring. Realize that she needs to have her nails clipped. As you're already distracted, go ahead and get the nail clippers and the REALLY GOOD treats as it's not a favorite task for either of you.

9. When finished clipping, put the treats away and sweep the floor.

10. Take the dog outside to go potty.

11. As it's a nice day, go for a walk and ponder what you've learned in your studies. Mentally turn over the different points you intend to cover and consider slightly restructuring your paper.

12.  Return home, put the dog's leash away, return to your desk.

13. Realize that you are thirsty after your walk and that you need some water. Go to the kitchen for water, and give the dog fresh water, too.

14.  Return to your desk, glance at your totally illegible notes, grab your sources, and connect to the internet.

15.  Begin writing blog post about how to study Social Ethics.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ignoring the Signs of the Times

Most of the time, the dreams we have as we sleep are jumbles of nonsense, occasionally entertaining nonsense, but nonetheless...nonsense.  Sometimes, though, albeit rarely, they actually have meaning. Recently I had one of those dreams, and as the meaning is quite obvious, well, let's just say that God is still speaking in parables.

Oncoming Storm

It was Holy Saturday and I was going to my Mom's friend's house to eat dinner with my Mom, my brother and some friends of hers. I had some obligations, though, and needed to go home, even though 8 pm rolled around and we still hadn't eaten. I told Mom that I had to go and wouldn't be able to come back for Easter. She was upset with me but walked me out to the car, said she'd drive, and as we were trying to get out of the garage, the Farmer (the dad and owner of the home and farm we were on) came and told us a tornado was coming. He explained that it had been announced on the radio, and that  getting out on those county roads was the worst possible thing to do. He was right, and at his invitation, we parked the car and got out. For my part, I got out of the car with a bit of resentment, almost poo-pooing the idea that it was going to be THAT BAD. I wanted to get home.

Curious, and hoping the Farmer was wrong, I looked towards the East through the garage window, and to my shock, I saw about 4 tornadoes whirling towards us across the Minnesota farmland, and two more forming: a total of 6. Six Tornadoes! On our very doorstep!  The wind was already picking up; the storm was IMMANENT.

We ran across the driveway in whipping wind, up the walkway and dodged inside, thinking that the farmer's young and adult children were coming, too, as they were also still outside. Once through the door, I  headed down the multi-tiered stairway. When I came into the first part of the basement, I found children playing there as though nothing was happening. Thinking that their parents probably didn't want to scare them, I said nothing about the storm, but asked one of the older kids where everyone else was. He pointed down a hallway. "Probably in there somewhere."  The boy shrugged and went on playing.  

We were still above ground as the farmhouse was built into a hill, so in order to be safe, everyone would have to go into an interior room that butted up against or perhaps was constructed into the hill itself. From where we were, I could look across the driveway to see the farmer's young adult children sitting on cement garden benches, laughing and joking.  I banged against the window, pointing at the looming tornadoes behind them. They just laughed and held on as they were being sucked around by the wind.

I was shocked to see a child out there, too:  a toddler!  He was climbing out of a shed window, clearly seeking shelter somewhere else and yet not understanding the danger he was in. Before my eyes, the wind ripped him from the window frame he tried so desperately to grasp.. I yelled and pointed, knowing the young men and women could see me through the window. One of the young  women laughed and picked the boy up when he fell to the ground, unable to get up on his own.  I kept waving to them, pointing to the door for safety, gesturing to them to look behind at what was nearly upon us.  I was watching the wind pick up, pulling leaves from the trees, pulling at telephone wires, nearly ripping them from their perches. Yet they just continued to joke and laugh as though they were on a roller coaster.

I thought they were insane. I was sure I was about to witness their destruction, and became more and more frantic.

I knew it was futile; they didn't seem to care, not even about the child in their presence. I knew that even if I climbed the stairs and tried to yell from the door, they wouldn't hear me. As it was, they were refusing to "see" me, even standing in the light of the bay window as it got darker and darker outside and the oppressive storm bore down on us all. 

I knew that I was standing in a very dangerous place, expecting that at any moment a branch could be ripped from a tree and thrown through the huge window, maybe killing us all. Still, though, I couldn't give up;  I wanted to stay as long as I could in hopes that they would finally come in and not be killed. I also knew that it was going to be my responsibility to herd the kids there inside with me back into other rooms of the house and away from this dangerous area.

I didn't know where the other adults were, or the Farmer, but I figured they were working, maybe even doing the same thing I was at other windows. Maybe battening down the hatches. As far as I knew, they were safe...and maybe they didn't know about the ones who weren't. If so, it was up to me to help get them inside and there wasn't much time left for them....

Thankfully, I woke up without witnessing the disaster, but I was shaking, and the meaning of the dream was very, very clear.

For those who don't think in terms of allegory, look at the characters, and the numerous children of all ages present in the dream.  God the Father was the Farmer who invited us into the House to shelter us from the storm. All the people there...His children. And as we were there on his property, He considered US his children as well.  [Theological point:  adopted sons and daughters].

I went in to take shelter, found more children, turned and saw others outside who would not come in. They ignored the invitation, they ignored the warning and thought the weather was a joke, something to take pleasure in with no eye to the consequences. [Theological note:  the weather was the signs of the times].

No matter what I did, they laughed and ignored what I was trying to tell them, and I knew the Farmer had spoken to them as well as we were all coming in. [Theological note: the Farmer was a good shepherd who had come out to bring in His sheep]

I actually suspected, in the dream, that the Farmer was still going about his property, rounding everyone up who would heed his advice and take shelter in his house. [Theological note:  House of Israel, which now = the Church.]

Another point, consider what I and probably others were doing in the dream:  trying to get people to come in and out of the storm that was obviously going to decimate them. They weren't people I knew, but I recognized them as "family".  I wasn't shouting and insulting them, but simply pointing out what was going on, out of concern for their safety, trying to get them to SEE and wanting them to come IN to be safe and LIVE! And yet...they didn't.  [Theological point:  the Church is Missionary, seeks the lost, and it is the responsibility of all the faithful to carry out this mission of SALVATION].

Even there, I knew that I also had a responsibility to the Farmer's children who were in the room with me. Because I was there, it meant they were entrusted to my care and I had to protect them as well.  In fact, they were my primary concern and I knew I'd have to leave the others to their demise in order to ensure the safety of those who were in the House to be certain they would not be sucked out by the tornadoes.

Maybe others will see other things in this. I've kept the "interpretation" at a minimum, and I should mention that I have left out some details that are more specific to the people in my life who were in the dream.  What I recounted here is the "public info". Take it for what it's worth. I publish it here as I do believe God speaks to us in dreams, using them to tell the parables that can only reach us if we're open to them.

Someone else may read it as gibberish, and if so, I take no offense at that. All I will say is that I had a dream, this one meant something, and I find it's meaning very obvious. Too obvious to ignore.

My friends, we can all read the signs of the times. We can see what's coming at us, and we know it is our baptismal obligation to live out the Mission of the Church within our states in life. What is that Mission?  To bring in the lost, to aid those who are among us, to build the Kingdom of God. To be salt of the earth. To be leaven.

1 Corinthians 9:16-17
16 If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!
17 If I do so willingly, I have a recompense, but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Sacred and Profane: Where Adoro goes, Grace Abounds More

This week has been an interesting one. I've been at the NCEA (National Catholic Education Association) Conference held here at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Now, just to get rid the the Elephant in the Room: I did not attend anti-Catholic, anti-Life, pro-Gay "marriage" Garrison Keillor's keynote speech yesterday. I'm shocked he was ALLOWED to speak given the Archdiocesan Speaker Policy, and as I understand it (unconfirmed by an official source) the good Archbishop Neinstedt actually asked NCEA NOT to have him. But then they went for popularity instead of content. All this is heresay, though;  I don't know why Keillor was allowed to speak and I refuse to defend his abominable presence. There might have been reason, but in light of the policy, I can't see that reason myself and need it explained to me.


I  learned that I hate discussing curriculum (I actually already knew this), and received affirmation that the idea of being a teacher and reviewing textbooks and curriculum makes me so itchy and uncomfortable that when my boss brings up this or that book or curriculum, the only thing I want to do is exit freely while kicking and screaming.

I think that true teachers actually care about those things. I don't. I hate them.  *cringe*

That's not the say, though, that the week was useless.Much to my surprise, I attended several professional development sessions which, although they were geared towards actual school teachers or principles, there is some content that can be applied in my work, for our students, catechists, and even parents. There are some practical points I hope to put into practice, or at least pass on to those under my guidance. There are a few things I hope to apply to myself in my own work.

Along with all that professional stuff, though, all that Sacred, we still had the Profane to keep us entertained.

Oh,  yes. Where Adoro goes, grace abounds more.  

This week, I took my friends into Hell, and as we found out, with my guidance, there was no waiting!

As we left the Convention Center for lunch, we wondered where best to go. A few blocks up were many restaurants. Being that we were in Downtown Minneapolis, we didn't want to go to some cheap chain we could find around the corner from work.  If we were going to walk down the street for food, we wanted food to remember. Some stuff was ruled out, like Ruth's Chris and Manny's. (Who can afford those places?)   We came, then to a crossroad at 2nd Ave and 9th St.

We didn't have a lot of time, so had to choose:  Keys Cafe' or Hell's Kitchen?

Although I scandalized myself at the juxtaposition of such dire opposites (Keys vs Hell), I did what my coworkers asked me to do, and I made the decision:  Hell.

If nothing else, I thought, we'd have this wonderful receipt to turn in to our straitlaced parish bookkeeper who would read on it, "Hell's Kitchen" and wonder at the Faith Formation department that decided to Descend for lunch.

And descend we did!  

We entered the door under the sign only to find that we had to descend the steps into Hell (that is, the restaurant itself.)  Other convention-goers were in front of us, and specifically a party of 6.  (Does anyone else find that ironic?).  The party of 6, when asked, was told that their 6 could not be seated for another 10 minutes. They were diverted off to a side hallway to await their judgment seating.

My coworkers and I discussed this as we overheard it and decided to stay anyway, for, given that it was shortly after noon, we knew we'd have to stand in line or wait anywhere we went. Walking along to the next place would eat up time.

So as the party ahead moved to the side, and I was greeted by the minion Concierge of Hell's Kitchen, I told him that we are 3. He and the other minion hostess conferred, and we were informed that there was immediate seating for us...and we were led around the bar and into the next level. This also led to much hilarity as my coworkers recognized that apparently, with me leading, there is No Waiting in Hell.

The food was good, and in fact, we learned that in Hell, Buffalo is the staple.

Both my boss and I ordered a Buffalo burger, although with different toppings. When our meal was delivered, I received my white-topped (white cheddar) burger, and the waiter came out with a similar looking one for my boss. She saw the cheddar which looked like mine and said that she'd ordered bleu cheese. He took it back although she said it would be fine, but he feared maybe it was another person's order. No problem. Unable to find the other customer, he brought it back with apologies, my coworker thought it was fine and told him so; she was happy to eat it.  In the meantime I had bitten into my own burger and realized that the waiter hadn't confused the table..but the orders.  I had the bleu cheese.Which I'd almost ordered, anyway.

Still, though, we were happy with our meals. To our surprise, thoughl our hostess came back, apologizing for the waiter. He was very upset at the mistake and wanted to make it up to us, offering us one of their Famous Carmel rolls! But we knew we were all full, and even splitting it between the 3 of us would be too much. Our hostess said that our waiter was nearly in tears, and when she stepped away we commented at how deep the feeling was in the customer service in Hell! Seriously...I haven't ever had a waiter who REALLY felt that bad about such a simple mistake. In the end, as we didn't accept the Carmel Roll, they decided to give us free beverages, and on behalf of our employer, the parish, we happily accepted the discount.

( many people do you know have gotten a discount in Hell?)

I thought back to all the old jokes about the guy who went to Hell and was shown 3 doors. Two of them upside-down in..uh...refuse. The last one, they were standing, talking, socializing and having a great time while sipping cups of coffee. Looking around in Hell's Kitchen, I saw families, including very small children, tucked there in between weird art and a children's program being shown on a big screen. A simple menu encompassing American cuisine (heavy on the Native!), aimed at the family.  What a great place!  It was classy, it was pretty peaceful, and obviously a respectable place in spite of the name!

It was because of this that I kept waiting for someone to jump on the PA system and yell, "OK EVERYONE! COFFEE BREAK IS OVER!"

Instead, we got a waiter with an overdeveloped sense of customer service who had made a minor error that wasn't his fault as he hadn't been the one to directly take our orders, and we  got a hostess who was funny, kind and down to earth, to the degree that when she gave coffee to my coworker she said comfortably, "This will wake your ass up!"

We liked her immediately, and our waiter as well.

As we were leaving, we decided to have our pic taken under the restaurant sign. Just then a man emerged from the general hallway coming from Hell's Kitchen, who agreed to take our pic with my boss's camera phone.

After we finished and thanked him, he said he was the nephew of the founder, and asked what brought us to Minneapolis.  Ha! We're FROM here! But...we explained...we were specifically there because of a religious education conference and thought it would be fun to visit Hell in the process.

Much to our surprise, expecting eye-rolling or general politeness, the man wished us "luck in your ministries", and that stopped us in our tracks. He asked us what we do, and then shared that he does some "street evangelization" there in Downtown.

I couldn't help myself. (People who know me shouldn't be surprised at what I said next.)  I asked him, "Do you street-evangelize from Hell?"

Thankfully he took the question well, and with humor. (The answer is no...he literally hits the street, not Hell!) and all I have to say is this: I hope he brings many souls to Christ! It takes real courage to do such a thing, and I wish we Catholics could get over ourselves enough to do it, too. comparison to Evangelicals, we have no "personality" at all!  (Incidentally I'm actively working on forming a program that will form Catholics to have such courage and conviction!)

Now...for the record, lest I scandalize anyone:  the Restaurant "Hell's Kitchen" isn't named for Hell, but for the neighborhood in Brooklyn NY (kinda) and for the actual HEAT in the kitchen!  It has no association with the popular reality TV show and celebrity chef, nor the ontological reality of the place people who reject God in hatefulness go to after death.   In fact, I think this restaurant and name pre-dates popular culture!

Back to Sacred

There were many Religious Sisters at the Conference, and I was happy to, several times, run into my friends, the SCMC's, whom I visited last summer in Connecticut.  This afternoon one of the Sisters and I wandered about the exhibit hall, picking up freebies, hobnobbing, and talking with old friends.  I found some great resources, made some great contacts, and strengthened an already-good friendship.  What's not to love about that?

When it was time we headed to the Auditorium for the closing Mass. I couldn't reach my coworkers and hadn't seen them in a couple hours, so I ended up sitting with the Sisters and the teachers from their school, and was somehow given some kind of a "recommendation" to the Principal. His response: any friend of Sister is a friend of mine!  Ha ha!

The Mass was celebrated by Archbishop John Neinstedt, was MC'd by Fr. John Paul Erickson, and concelebrated by many priests. As such, there was no was a beautiful, reverent Mass, and a perfect way to end the Conference.

I admit I hadn't wanted to go to the NCEA conference, but I have to also admit that it was a good experience, I did attend some valuable professional training sessions and made some important contacts.

It is good to end with the Sacred, and so I ask for your prayers for all the Catholic Educators out there who are truly trying to do the right things for your children. They do care about doctrine and how to present it faithfully. They do care about whether or not you as parents are involved....and how best to make sure you know you are the most important part of the education of your children.

God bless teachers, God bless parents, who are primary in teaching their children!  God send us many more!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

What is a Christian?

*Content Warning: this post references a heinous crime against a child and may not be suitable for all readers.*

Tonight, while I sat listening to the multitude of readings at the Easter Vigil, I pondered, as I have been, the sacrifice of Christ. I listened to the story of Creation, the salvation of the Jews, the demise of the Egyptian captors. I prayed and sang the Psalms, and, although I didn't want to, pondered the state of the world.

In the last few days alone, in my metro area, alone, there have been atrocious crimes. I tried to push the thoughts away, but they wouldn't go, so I pondered them with God, letting them in and trying to see them in light of His Sacrifice.  I thought of the mother who was shot to death in front of her young children when her estranged husband rammed her car and then blew her away in spite of the presence of toddlers in car seats. I thought of the report of the oldest child to the police: "Daddy killed Mommy."  

I thought of the man who stabbed his ex-wife 40 times, in front of their children. She hadn't been in fear of him before because, as she'd told the courts when getting an Order for Protection, "He's never done anything crazy. I'm not afraid of him doing something."  Now she's a corpse with 40 horrible wounds and orphan children.

But the worst, the very worst, the story that overcame my thoughts tonight, was a story I read today. A fifteen-year-old girl went to a party in her apartment building with some older men. Not teens. Men.  Her little seven-year-old sister tagged along with her "out of concern for her safety", as the story tells us.

At the party, the teen (15 years old!) starting selling herself for sex with the men who were there, and then began taking money to let the various men there touch her LITTLE SISTER!  HER OWN SISTER!

Judas has NOTHING on this teenager. As I sat at Mass fuming about what horrible set of sins and monstrosities had created this evil 15-year-old who was probably very very abused as a child herself, I read on.

No less than 7 men decided that "touching" wasn't enough. They went on to FORCIBLY RAPE the 7-year-old girl! SEVEN men GANG-RAPED a 7-YEAR-OLD!

Tonight, as I pondered that horrible crime, the consequences spiritually, morally, physically and emotionally for that poor child, I looked over at the child of about that same age that I prepared to be received into the Church this evening. I considered all the children I help to prepare for the Sacraments, and I shuddered so deeply that I'm certain there must have been an earthquake in Hell tonight.

Oh, yes, I was angry. There I was, sitting at the most beautiful, most Sacred Liturgy of the entire year, and all I could think about was the horrible crime visited upon an innocent little girl who went as a pure lamb among wolves spawned by Satan himself.

I didn't want to think about it. I didn't want to ponder it. I tried with all my might to push the thoughts and images away. I prayed for the girl, and for her family, and couldn't bring myself to pray for the monsters who had defiled her with such demonic violence.

I looked up at the Crucifix and wondered at the God who would send his only Son to die for such a worthless race that is humanity. I wondered at the God who could look upon us with any shred of mercy at all. I considered the men who forcibly raped an innocent little girl, a girl who had entered that den out of interest and love for her own sister, and I asked how Jesus could possibly think humanity worth saving? HOW?  I would wash my hands and walk away, leaving them either to themselves to do as they wished or simply destroy them in one fell swoop.  

The last Psalm ended as I was trying hard to recollect myself.

Then I heard, and, trying hard, read along the words of the Epistle for the Easter Vigil:

Rom 6:3-4:
Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

I don't think I really heard the rest of the Epistle. I was drawn into those words and captivated there, as though my head was being held under water.  "Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?"

I was bonded there, chastised, and crucified.  And there, from the gibbet of the Cross, I saw what Jesus sees, I saw the reason for my questions, and I saw the Truth of Divine Justice.

My questions....about the value of humanity, about why Jesus underwent His Passion and Death to save us...those aren't new questions. Not to me, not to anyone.  It isn't that I haven't asked them before, and it isn't that I have not sinned, and horribly, at that. If anything, I  know what I am capable of doing and I have seen much in my professional life. Not much shocks me.

The closer I come to Christ, though, the more my outer shell is worn away, and the more I am able to be shocked by the rancid devastation of sin. The more I am able to see the rot, the more I, in my own fallen humanity, want to take a torch to the trunk and burn it ALL away, leaving nothing.

I do not see as God sees.

I was angry tonight, I was scandalized, and then I heard the Word of God that brought me to bear; I have been baptized in Christ. I have been baptized into His death.

Oh, yes. To be Baptized in Christ means to take on the very same Cross, to drink of the same cup of Salvation. To be Baptized means that we are one with Him and His plan for the Salvation of sinners. To be Baptized means we take on that yoke of suffering; it means that we are giving our fiat to God, and that we, too, are willing to DIE for sinners.

For SINNERS. Even the worst.

Even the sinners who would rape a child. Repeatedly.

Jesus, from eternity, looked upon humanity and called us "good".  Jesus, from eternity, was made incarnate at conception in order to save us from our sins. He looked upon the worst of humanity...and said YES.

God did not gaze upon humanity judging our worthiness by the pettiness of humanity, but by the depths to which we are capable of descending.  He looked upon us and judged us by the greatest atrocities. Jesus looked upon the greatest sins of humanity, sins most people could never even imagine, and in His great love, he looked beyond the sin and saw His Own Image, and He said YES.

Jesus became one of us not because we say snarky things or don't do our chores, but because we are capable of raping children and murdering entire generations of them through abortion and genocide.

God looked at the worst we can do and said, "They are in my image, they are my children and I will die for them in the worst torture known to humanity."

To be Christian, to be Baptized into Christ means to take on that same Cross, and from there, took into the eyes, and the soul, of the most depraved sinner, and say, YES!

To be Christian is to know that no one is beyond salvation, and to know that Christ didn't die for the self-defined righteous, but for sinners, and the worst of sinners at that.

To be Christian is to take on the Cross and, for ourselves, to look especially upon the most depraved of souls and say, "You are a child of God and I am willing to die for your salvation."

We must not just be willing to forgive, but to die the most torturous death for the most depraved of sinners

Nothing less is worthy of a Christian. Nothing less than the ultimate price of Divine Love is worthy of Christ.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

O Felix Culpa! He is Risen!

Rejoice heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes forever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people!

It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God,
the all powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam's sin
to our eternal Father!

This is our Passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night
when the pillar of fire
destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is the night
when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin
and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace
and grow together in holiness.

This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?

Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!
Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy."

The power of this holy night
dispels all evil, washes guilt away,
restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Night truly blessed
when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God!

Therefore, heavenly Father,
in the joy of this night
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church's solemn offering.

Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.

Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!

May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all mankind,
your Son who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

The Church in Hopeful Mourning

The Lord's descent into hell

"What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parents like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam's son.

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: 'My Lord be with you all.' And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

‘I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

‘For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

‘Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.

'See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.

`I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

‘But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

"The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages."

A reading from an ancient homily for Holy Saturday

Friday, April 02, 2010


The Reproaches of Good Friday:
My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you?
Answer me!

I led you out of Egypt,
from slavery to freedom,
but you led your Savior to the cross.

My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

For forty years I led you
safely through the desert.
I fed you with manna from heaven,
and brought you to a land of plenty;
but you led your Savior to the cross.

Holy is God!
Holy and strong!
Holy immortal One, have mercy on us!

What more could I have done for you.
I planted you as my fairest vine,
but you yielded only bitterness:
when I was thirsty you gave me vinegar to drink,
and you pierced your Savior with a lance.

Holy is God!
Holy and strong!
Holy immortal One, have mercy on us!

For your sake I scourged your captors
and their firstborn sons,
but you brought your scourges down on me.

My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

I led you from slavery to freedom
and drowned your captors in the sea,
but you handed me over to your high priests.

My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

I opened the sea before you,
but you opened my side with a spear.

My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

I led you on your way in a pillar of cloud,
but you led me to Pilate’s court.

My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

I bore you up with manna in the desert,
but you struck me down and scourged me.

My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

I gave you saving water from the rock,
but you gave me gall and vinegar to drink.

My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

For you I struck down the kings of Canaan.
but you struck my head with a reed.

My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

I gave you a royal scepter,
but you gave me a crown of thorns.

My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

I raised you to the height of majesty,
but you have raised me high on a cross.

My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!