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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Women in the Church Again

I was just blogging around and on my rounds checked into what the Young Fogeys had to say today. Well, maybe some of you will remember my post on Women in the Church last summer.

I was quite enthused, then to read about a different "virulent" verse along the same lines, and in all honesty, I plan to check back again and again to read and re-read his summary on this subject. Rarely have I ever felt more valued as a human being than when reflecting upon this very truth.

So how should we read Ephesians 5? Pope John Paul says that to understand what St. Paul means in this oft-maligned passage, we've got to re-read the letter from the start. In Ephesians 1:1-10, we find out that before the world even began, God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless (verse 4). In other words, we (male & female) have always been part of the Divine Plan. Verse 9 says that God has made the mystery of His plan known to us, and St. Paul argues that each marriage between man and woman helps to make God's greater plan visible.


Then after reading this, get thee to a bookstore, or to a Catholic catalogue, and order ye a "Theology of the Body" by John Paul II, or an explanatory version by Christopher West or Jason Evert or the not pass go, do not get married, do not even LOOK at anyone of the opposite gender UNTIL you have had the opportunity to understand God's plan for your life and the reality of His teachings in these blessed verses. God is a true feminist. Would that our world would get the message...the women in charge of the movement on this planet have really screwed it up.

Thank you YF's for the clarity in your teaching and your fidelity to Jesus!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Darkness Into Light

I always forget how the light changes, and goes away so quickly after Daylight Savings ends. For weeks now I've been walking my dogs in the early morning darkness long before dawn, resigned to this fate because it is as it must be.

Then tonight as I left work, already it was twilight, and the wind, having increased since I was last outside before noon, had taken on the hint of an edge, and the temperature had fallen. Leaves were blowing around everywhere, constantly drifting around my car, striking my windshield, becoming whirling dervishes where the corner of the building created an updraft of sorts.

There has also been a foreboding I especially sense on windy fall nights such as this, which never fails to send me into a sort of introspective menancholy. It is the knowledge of the change of the seasons, the knowledge of the trials of winter that we all must pass through, like passing through that season of death in order to come into new life once again.

Tonight I had an appointment at my parish and wheras last week at this hour had I arrived, the sun would be approaching the western horizon...but tonight, it was full darkness. The wind gusted, whirling the leaves constantly, causing the branches, some skeletal, some evergreen, to wave violently as though in defiance. And that sense of forboding wouldn't go away...and the darkness seemed nothing but oppressive.

I dislike the darkness, and for a few moments, internally I railed against it, already tired of the growing hours in which we must put up with it. As I approached the entrance to the church, I saw that the lights were off, and my irritation increased. I needed to enter God's house and take comfort in the blessed light of the foyer, but instead, it seemed I was entering an abandoned place. Yet I had to pass through this shadowy, cavernous, silent and empty hall in order to reach my destination...the Blessed Sacrament chapel.

"Why are the lights off?" I grumbled to myself as I passed the marble benches and skirted the kiosks. I looked for a light switch, then saw that I would pass by one near the corner of the brick wall. I turned it on, instantly feeling better as the florescents flickered on. Instantly, the "gathering space" was more welcoming, and that feeling of oppression had lifted.

After a few moments with Jesus, I left and passed again through the still darker-than-usual room. Other people were walking through, now, and stopping at the kiosk to read of parish events and other things.

It was then that I realized that nothing happens by accident. I had a little conversation with God, which, if it could be put into words, would have gone something like this:

"What just happened?! I think I'm missing a point somewhere here...what are you trying to teach me?"

You entered and found darkness...then turned on the light.

"I had to turn on the light...I couldn't stand being in the dark anymore." recognized the darkness, and rather than letting it remain, you chose to bring the light. YOU brought the light into the darkness, just by passing by.

"But God...I didn't put the switch there, or do the wiring, or invent electricity...or the light itself. I only turned it on."

In the past, you were in the darkness, and you didn't know where the light was. Now, you know where the light is to be found, so rather than pass by, you carry the knowledge of that light with you always...and so you have the choice to turn it on. It is thus that people who pass through that same space are not plagued by that same darkness...because your actions have brought my light to them.

I had to chew this over quite a bit, and the "coversation" above is not exactly how it went, for the gentle flood of light within my soul was interior, and more silent than a whisper. Tonight, I learned a lesson. We carry the light of Christ within us, and thus we always have a choice...accept the darkness within which we wander...or find the switch that opens the floodgates of God's grace. Wherever we choose to bring the light, others will follow, perhaps not ever having to bark their shins on the same obstacles that tripped us. We are all called to action in Christ, to do small things with great faith, great trust, and even the smallest task can make a huge difference in the life and experience of another.

Tonight, all I did was turn on a switch. I didn't do it for anyone else, really...I wasn't motivated by that. I turned it on because I was irritated at the darkness.

I think that those who turn on the light for others and not for their own comfort are the ones we should follow...and the ones we refer to as "Saints."

Shortly after this incident, I opened my Magnificat, and found the reflection for the night. The author was none other than St. Catherine of Siena:

We must not complain or run away in time of darkness, because out of the darkness is born the light. Oh, God, tender love, what sweet teaching you give us that virtue is learned through what is contrary to it!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Jesus, Son of David...have pity on me!

Author's Note: This is the basic presentation I gave to our RCIA class, but in a more complete form. It was my second scripture reflection of my first year teaching RCIA.

When I first began to reflect upon the readings for today, the 30th Sunday in Ordinary time, I initially had a different idea in mind as to what I wanted to talk about, but with deeper consideration, I saw that there is a theme running throughout, which speaks of mercy, it speaks of going away in tears, consolation, and guidance. It ends in rejoicing. The second reading speaks of patience with the ignorant and erring, referencing those called by God to offer gifts and sacrifices on their behalf. There is some deeper theology with relation to the order of Melchizadeck and I would like to discuss it, however suffice to say at this point that this is a reading and a reference you will hear especially around the time of the ordinations which take place in the spring. Remember this term, and remember this reading, but for now, file it away in the back of your mind as an important concept to be considered later.

With regard to the Gospel, Bartimaeus was me a few years ago. I had been raised Catholic but fell away and was living a life in which I was involved in the occult, palm reading, and other things my Mom did not raise me to do. On occasion I attended Mass, and each time, I cried from pretty much the opening prayer until about a half hour or so after it was over. It completely freaked me out, and as a result, I rarely attended the same parish because I didn’t want people to recognize me as the “weird crying lady”.

A curious thing was happening during these years…I went to Mass so infrequently that I seemed to go only when the readings were about the Prodigal Son, or about similar themed Gospels such as this one about Bartimeaus. I began to think that the various parishes only recycled the same readings, over and over!

I remember, though, as I sat weeping at those Masses, how much the way I was living my life contrasted with what was being taught, and I was made aware, even though I didn’t want to see it, that the life I was living was one of darkness. I was really lost in all that mess. I was not living the life my Mom had intended for me, or that God had intended. I remember in those times, praying for Jesus to have mercy on me, to have pity on me. I was so blind, though--because I didn’t understand that I was crying because Jesus DID have pity on me…and He was calling me to him via the Gospels and the homilies--and the tears.

In this regard, Bartimaeus was far wiser than I, for in his blindness he still recognized the Son of God. I just sat there crying for mercy and when Jesus called me to Him, I ran away in tears.

Slowly, though, I began to come back, and for a few years, I knew I needed to go to Confession, but I could not work up the courage to make an appointment and I could not bring myself to stand in line---the weird crying lady strikes again! I’ll admit at this point that part of my struggle was with my pride…I didn’t want to be so exposed in my weakness.

The thought of going to Confession literally made me shake in my shoes. But I continued to pray for mercy, and I began to attend Mass more often, trying to go every Sunday. Yet I also continued in my own personal darkness, living a life divorced from God’s will and everything I’d been taught about morality.

But the Lord is faithful, even when we are not. The Lord went so far as to send me a priest. I happened to be at a friend’s house one evening, and the priest at the parish I had been attending was a family friend, and “just happened” to be there for dinner. He and I had a great conversation about cooking, garlic, and wine or some such things. Through this conversation, I considered that he was a pretty cool guy...and maybe I should contact him and make an appointment for what promised to be a difficult Confession. I had a sense that he was an empathetic soul and that maybe I could trust him.

A few times I picked up my phone in an attempt to call to make an appointment, and then quickly slammed it down. A few times I went so far as to get into my car, drive to the parish for Confessions on Saturday...and as soon as I saw the Church, I hit the gas and got out of there as quickly as I could!

The Gospel refers to those who rebuked Bartimeaus, and indeed, there were those in my life, too...even as I prayed for the grace to return to my faith, there were people who rebuked me. God is faithful, and sometimes those who rebuke us have the opposite effect than what they intend. For some reason, I kept running into co –workers and other people who attacked the Catholic Church, and they ALWAYS brought up the Sacrament of Reconciliation, claiming it wasn’t scriptural or some other alleged complaint. Rather than being driven further from the Church, I began to ask questions I should have asked long before.

Finally, after watching EWTN, and doing some reading about the Catholic Church and our beliefs, as Easter was approaching I resolved that I was going to finally go to Confession. So I did a web search of all the parishes in the area and found a communal penance service with individual confessions afterward.

I had finally reached the point where I realized that I really was completely wrapped up in my own darkness, and I knew that I couldn’t go on like that anymore, and I couldn’t keep running away from Jesus. I was literally saying to God, “Master, I don’t want to be alone in this dark any more…I want to see.”

One of my obstacles had been in my lack of understanding of the Sacrament. I actually thought that I had to perfect myself, I had to turn away from everything in order to have what they call a “firm purpose of amendment”. I knew that I couldn’t just change so drastically, and by going to Confession, I was, in a way, making a solid commitment to God. While I was quite a sinner, a healthy respect for God had been instilled within me and I did not want to make matters worse through any form of insincerity. What I learned was that it’s God’s job to perfect us, and that we can’t always just cast everything away without his Grace.

If we refer to the Gospel again, we see that the blind man cast away his cloak, a representation for sin and those things that encumber us and prevent us from following Jesus. Again, he was far stronger than I, or maybe most of us, because it’s so difficult to leave it all behind and approach Jesus. I couldn’t do that; I needed Jesus’s help and the grace of the Sacraments to give me strength.

So I went to the church that evening, and at the entrance there was an examination of conscience, which was, in a nutshell, a list of mortal and venial sins. For example, it listed the 1st Commandment: I am the Lord your God; you shall have no other gods except Me. Then it went on to list offenses which fall into this category, such as Occult practices; palm reading, divination, Tarot, etc. Well…THAT hit home! I actually became convinced that I was the WORST SINNER EVER.

Keep in mind that EVERYONE there was at that church for Confession…and the church was FULL.

I was already crying, and sat near the back of the church, listened AGAIN to the story of the Prodigal Son, and this time, I knew that it was all about me, and I saw the pattern of the last few years…all about blindness, returning home, and the rejoicing that followed. God was not trying to scare me away, yet as I stood in line for confession, I couldn’t stop crying. There I was…the weird crying lady again.

I think I stood there for about 45 minutes or so, but it felt a LOT longer. I had hoped to go behind a screen, but the line there was MUCH longer and I realized that if I moved to that line, I might lose whatever courage I had and just leave...but I didn’t want to leave. It was time to answer Jesus’ call to me.

One of the objections I’d always heard, and still hear from people, is that we, as Catholics, aren’t confessing to God...but to man. It’s important to point out that in Confession, we ARE confessing directly to Jesus, but the priest is there in persona Christi, which is a term you will hear a lot. It means, “in the place of Christ”, so while we may see or hear the priest and what he has to say, when he tells us that we are absolved, it is not him speaking under his own authority, rather he is speaking as Jesus because it is JESUS who forgives our sins through the priest. So that night, it was Jesus I was going to see.

Finally it was my turn, and finally, I was the blind man who had come to Jesus, finally ready to say, “Master, I want to see.”

I was a complete mess--that poor priest!

I could barely speak, so I just handed over the examination of conscience and said, “’s been about 12 years...”

There was a pause during which I was sure the full judgment I thought I deserved would come crashing down upon me.

“THAT’S WONDERFUL!” the priest proclaimed. “That’s GREAT! YOU’RE the prodigal DAUGHTER!”

HUH!? Not what I’d expected to hear. In spite of all the Gospels I’d heard, in spite of everything...I thought I deserved to be condemned and cast away. That’s not what happened.

I made my confession, most of it completely unintelligible, but this priest NEVER ONCE asked me to repeat what I had said...because he wasn’t the one who needed to understand, or decipher my words. He knew I was doing the best I could, and it was Jesus who heard every single word.

I will NEVER be able to explain what it was like to make my Act of Contrition and walk out of there, 12 years GONE.


And you know...I really could see more clearly after that day. I could identify those parts of my life that needed to change, and through this pivotal moment, I was able to find the courage to walk away from those things that had held me captive for so long.

I wish I could say that my life immediately changed, but it didn’t. I was still encumbered, like we all are, by various things, people, relationships, etc, which held me back, but slowly, through prayer, through the sacraments, through a true desire to follow Jesus, those things changed. Those things are still changing, every single day. And I’ve found that the closer we become to God, the more clearly we can see.

Twice in this Gospel, Jesus gives the blind man a choice, because we ALWAYS have a choice. When Bartimeaus called out to Him, Jesus didn’t just go to him, but he CALLED to him in response. He gave him a choice rather than approaching him on the roadside. He was asking for a commitment, a willingness to do something other than sit there and cry.

Then, again, after he restores his sight, Jesus tells Bartimeaus, “Your faith has saved you...go your way.” And Bartimeaus, his sight restored, chooses to follow Jesus. He could have gone back to his old life…he could have just walked away, grateful but unchanged. Jesus gives us all this choice and does not enforce it. He tells us to go our own way…and lets us make that critical choice.

Our way...or God’s way?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Suicide, Mercy, and Redemption

Tonight I read a post over at Abbey Roads and in reflection, have decided maybe it's time to tell a particular story. I have told few people about this because what happened to me may seem a bit unbelievable...yet I am here today to give witness to the Glory of God. That must be worth something to someone, else I would not still be alive.

When I was a teenager, life was rough. Not the typical teenage angst all the rags try to capitalize upon, but something deeper and more sinister. My father was an alcoholic and as such, my parents divorced when I was 8. Around that same time, my Mom was diagnosed as a "Manic-Depressive", in currant parlance: Bipolar. As the years went on, her disease grew worse.

And as the years went on, I became a teenager, which is difficult in and of itself. Life was made more difficult by the fact that my father, whenever I went to visit him spent the time drinking in the bathroom, and my mother was becoming more unpredicable and irrational by the day. I realized the only control I had in my life was through school, so I focused on what I had to do, got involved in after-school activities not so much for the activity itself, but as an escape. Any reason not to have to go home.

Then things took a turn for the worse. A girl in my 8th grade class, a girl I had known a little and considered to be at least an acquaintance had a twin brother. He was killed in a tragic accident (in which he was not entirely innocent), and in her grief, the mean streak she had always had took over her entirely. I must have just passed by here at the wrong time because I became the focus of her anger. I hadn't known her well before this, but afterwards I wished I'd never met her. She became the ringleader of a clique of girls, and apparently I was their pet project.

I couldn't go anywhere without some sort of derision directed at me. They accused myself and my best friend of "lesing" together. (reference to lesbianism). This rumor spread like wildfire, as so as far as the student body had decided at the time, my friend and I were formally "lesbians". It wasn't true, but there was no escape.

I wasn't without friends, however, until one day in 8th grade. I was 14. My friends and I had a disagreement, really a minor one, and they ostracized me, too. I remember a loud verbal argument in front of the entire cafeteria during which I defended my position. Their argument was equally as loud, and we had the attention of the entire school. Great. I was actually beyond caring. I'd felt like the doormat for the entire school at the time, anyway, so this was no surprise.

I remember the "conversation" degenerating into some weird "my life is worse than your life" routine, in which I revealed that my mother was in a mental ward, and maybe I should just kill myself. My "friends" agreed.

They likely didn't realize it...but I was serious and it wasn't the first time the thought had crossed my mind. I really wanted to die, and in that moment, I realized that it was true...I really would prefer to cease to exist.

I remember, in those years, due to my mother's deep devotion to the faith, and my upbringing, and my involvement in the parish, that killing myself shouldn't be an option. I remember having learned that suicide was a mortal sin, and this is the type of sin that damns people to Hell. So I prayed through the psalms, I begged God to make my life better, to change things...yet nothing changed. It continued to go downhill. I couldn't stand being at school; I couldn't stand being at home. I had nowhere to go. I certainly wasn't going to tell the people at my church how I was feeling; not our parish priest, not any of the members of the choir, not even my best friend. No one knew my thoughts for I wrapped them deeply within a fragile outer covering. I pretended everything was peachy, but inside, I was really screaming.

Yet God seemed silent. He never answered my prayers, no matter how much I cried, no matter how many psalms I prayed. I began to question whether God was really there. How could he let me suffer like this? Why did I deserve this?

I kept hearing about "Friends of Jesus", but I didn't see anywhere in my life where Jesus was a "friend" of any sort. He was ignoring me, too. So I thought.

In school, in health class, in an effort to combat teenage suicides, all the health classes included an entire chapter to the subject. I studied hard, got wonderful grades...and realized that this was a a blueprint. I knew that I had to avoid all of those signs. It was imperative that no one know what I was thinking. I also knew that I had to avoid the "call for help" behavior of an almost-suicide.

Slowly I formulated my plan. I didn't like pain, and I didn't want to leave a mess. So my best option was drugs. That way, I could just go to sleep and die, and by the time I was found, it would be too late. No such thing as a way out.

Remember that my mother was bipolar. She had lots of drugs around, and through her constantly talking about them and their side effects, I learned a great deal. I also knew when she took them, how many, and when they were replaced. So I waited for her to get her refills, take her meds, and go into the kitchen.

This was the night. I had pretended to go to bed early, but had only been waiting for Mom to take her meds and get involved in her evening reading.

I'd been praying all along, so even though, at that point, I really didn't believe in God anymore, I decided to give Him one more chance before I put my plan into action. I'd give him a few minutes, and if no response, I was going to pad into the bathroom, open the cabinet, take the necessary drugs, and proceed to polish them off with the large bottle of water near my bed.

I rememeber sitting up in bed, leaning on my right elbow. In a whisper, I addressed God; I gave him an ultimatum: either save me or I will be damned by His choice, not my own. I remember looking at the clock, and I remember crying. I remember saying to God, audibly in my angry whisper that I was already in Hell; why worry about an eternity of it. Clearly He didn't care about me as I had continued to descend, thus maybe Hell didn't really exist. It had failed to continue as a deterrant of any sort, thus God must also not exist. I stated very clearly that I no longer believed in Him, so if I was wrong, and He did exist, now was the time to show himself.

I was actually shaking my left fist in the air, pointing up towards the general direction of the ceiling in my tirade, ready to throw back the covers and get the life-ending drugs.

That's when God really intervened.

Suddenly there was a very bright, intense, blue-white light appearing where the ceiling had been. A huge hand and arm reached down out of the light towards my upraised hand. I was transfixed by the vision as the hand touched mine...and it all disappeared.

I lowered my hand, shaken. I was in the same position I had been lying in, propped on my right elbow. I wondered if maybe I had fallen asleep and dreamed, but when I looked at the digital clock, I saw that only one minute had transpired since I had last glanced at the time.

A sense of peace enveloped me, and I no longer had even a shred of anger within me. It was gone. I no longer wanted to die, and somehow, my belief in God had been restored. I realized it was God's very hand that had touched me and all the pain had been removed. My heart was no longer broken; my soul no longer cried out for mercy. Death was no longer an answer to anything.

And I knew that I'd had a glimpse of Heaven. I knew that God was there, he'd heard every single prayer, and he'd been with me every step of the way.

I will never be able to answer as to why God didn't respond when I prayed, or why He answered so directly in my last moments, when I challenged Him. It went against everything I'd ever believed about the nature of does not tempt God, one does not give God ultimatums.

I've learned throughout life, however, that God often answers in what we think are the last moments, when we have all but given up. I HAD given up...and that's when God chose to reach out in His glory.

I'll never know why He saved me, and not others I've known. It certainly had nothing to do with faith...I expressed the last shred in my final tirade...which turned out not to be final.

You may read this with disbelief. A vision? Riiight. I understand your feelings. You can try to explain it as a dream, but what of the time? The clock had only registered 1 minute...not 20, or 30, or an hour. I've never hit REM sleep so quickly...have you? I don't now, nor have I ever had sleep apnea.

And the proof is in the pudding. I have worked with suicidal teenagers since that time, and a few years later, my Mom attempted suicide, via a similar method. Never have I seen anyone go from a true desire to end their life to...the erasure of that desire. Never have I seen anyone healed so quickly, although I have seen evidence of answered prayers. But the issue of suicide has never been resolved without lengthy treatment, counseling, etc., along with God's grace.

God's grace was enough for me...He responded to my desperation so that I can be here today to testify to His Glory. The Lord healed me with a touch.

I do not deserve such a grace, but every day I get up, I thank God for another chance to see the sunrise. Another chance to praise Him.

I have never since considered taking my own life. There have been great difficulties in my life, yet death was never the answer. I've heard the evil one whisper such nothings in my ears...yet that moment of salvation is forever etched into my mind. It doesn't take long to banish the demon suicide from my presence.

Suicide is a tough issue, and from what I have seen through others, and experienced in my own life, those who contemplate it are not in their right minds.

Curt Jester has a great post on mortal sin today, and I think that it's a great way of clarify what the Church teaches on this subject.

Most suicidal people are not seeing the world from the right perspective; something is off in their lives, or in the chemicals in their brains. In any case, without a sound mind, they cannot make sound choices. They may think (as I did) that their choices are willful, however, they are not. I remember knowing and understanding that suicide is a mortal sin, results in damnation to Hell as, if one does not repent of the sin they are condemned. Self-murder leaves no opportunity for Reconciliation or repentance.

Yet keep in mind, always, with regard to someone who takes their own life; they are NOT in their right minds, no matter what they tell you. People hide their diseases, they hide their thought processes, and while they may seem "normal", often there are things going on that are impossible for the average person to discern.

The Church does not automatically assume those who committed suicide are in Hell, and in fact, we are encouraged to pray for them. Do not lose hope; God does not let His little ones go so easily.

I will never be able to explain what happened to me, why God chose to reach out to me in a physical manifestation, while others seem to be "lost"; this is a great mystery. But I have learned that life is a gift, it MUST be respected at all costs...and God hears ALL of our prayers, even when He seems to be silent.

Tonight, please say a Divine Mercy chaplet for those who think suicide is their own option, that the Lord may heal their pain and know that His hand is always there.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Why I am Catholic

Cathy of Alex, on her blog, The Recovering Dissident Catholic, posted on the negativity of many of the Catholic blogs, and I hinted at this some time ago but didn't expand. She's right. So often it's so easy to focus on the negative rather than the positive...because the positive isn't news.

Let's face it....we're just as sensationalistic as the media. (You have NO IDEA how sick it makes me feel just to put that to words!).

So let's take a step back, taking a cue from our sister in Christ, Cathy, and talk about why we are Catholic.

Those of you who read my conversion story know that I had to fight my way through all the B.S. in order to come back from my hiatus of rebellion, and I'd do it again because it was all worth it. I've found my home...that's why I'm Catholic.

I'm Catholic because here, I can literally meet Jesus, one to one, in the Sacraments.

I'm Catholic because the Church is right. 2,000 years of guidance by the Holy Spirit can't be wrong, in spite of our "bad Popes". In spite of some dark times....the Church has never erred in issues of faith and morals, and in fact, the people became stronger due to the negative events.

I'm Catholic because I have chosen to be Catholic, and I have chosen to embrace all that the Church teaches, even if I don't understand it all, or if I don't know how to explain it all. Who can be a true expert on 2,000 years plus? No one but God.

I love the Catholic Church. I love our faith, and I love the closeness to the Lord we can obtain, the sacrifice, the suffering we are called to in order to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

I love the depth of spirituality, and the differing spiritualities to encompass all the people of the world...yet to remain united in Christ.

I love the customs, I love the traditions, both small and capital Tradition.

I love the Magesterium.

I love the Pope.

I love our priests, our religious, and all those diserning.

I love the fact that I had to fight against the culture and the dissent within so hard in order to understand all of the above.

I'm Catholic because I was born Catholic, I am living to be Catholic, and I will die Catholic, as a martyr if God so calls me to be, and only with His grace to persevere.

Most importantly, I'm Catholic because God has blessed me with this great worldwide, heaven-wide spiritual family, and even though some of the wayward portions of the family cause grief for all of us, I would not trade them in because I was one of them, too.

I'm Catholic because on earth, being Catholic is being home. We can't get any closer to God in our true home than when we are at Mass, or praying before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Thank you, Jesus, for bringing me home. Thank you, Jesus, for making me Catholic.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Meaning of Loss, the Sacrifice of Love

Those big eyes stared out of that little face at me from the webpage on I had seen this dog when looking for the first one we had adopted, but found elsewhere. Now, about six months later, I saw this little guy and the fact that he was still there tugged at my heartstrings. I knew this was my dog.

So my boyfriend, "R" and I drove down to Hastings with our other dog to see if this little guy was indeed the companion to our first.

I'll never forget his downcast eyes, averted gaze, and dull coat. I'll never forget how he wagged just the tip of his tail--as though he was afraid any other move would give cause for a need to seek cover. I'll never forget how he had to be lifted into my boyfriend's truck because he refused to jump. This was one scared little doberman mix...and I was already having second thoughts about his adoption.

On the ride home, I sat in the back seat so that I could keep both dogs seperated during the ride...and avoid any unnecessary mishaps. The first dog, also a doberman mix, was offended at being relegated to the rear, but soon laid down and left our new charge to get used to his new life. I just sat, holding his leash, and let him walk around, looking out the windows. I made no sudden moves. We'd been warned not to move quickly, speak loudly, or grab at his muzzle. Clearly, there were some aggression issues involved. So I let him get to know me, and I only let him know my preferences by gentle tugs on the leash, small sounds, and quiet pats.

He stood on my leg to see outside, and when I glanced over at him, he licked the tip of my nose and looked deeply into my eyes. It was all over. He was mine. And he curled up next to me tightly, which was to become his favored position. I had an official canine shadow.

We took him home and immediately I began working with him. He needed training, and I was working to try to prevent seperation anxiety. This dog had been in the shelter for well over a year...and he was only 1 1/2 years old! Poor little guy! But my preparations did not work. He had seperation anxiety like you wouldn't believe, destroyed things you wouldn't believe, and was so upset at the prospect of being left that he simply could not be trained.

We also learned that he was a potential fear-biter. My boyfriend, during the early days, terrified the dog via some move even he didn't recognize as being threatening in any way, but we were careful not to react, not to move quickly, but rather, to simply help him understand that no one was going to hurt him. There were only 2 or 3 total episodes of this type of aggression in a few weeks...and then they ended. But they served to give him his name: Saber. For his long canines and fighting spirit. This was a dog who was not willing to give up.

So we took him to a behaviorist, (a specialized type of veterinarian) who prescribed Clomiprimine, a type of anti-anxiety drug. This allowed him to calm down enough for the training to work, and slowly we weaned him off. We had to address dog aggression at the same time, and we watched him around kids, or kept him away entirely for fear that he would do something unpredictable.

Slowly, though, he got better. We learned his limitations and how to work within them, and he learned that he really had a home, and a "pack". He learned how to play. During the first two weeks we had him, he did not play...he didn't know how to play, apparently, and our other dog tried mightily and persistently to engage him. Finally, he figured it out and it never got tiring for us or others to observe them running around the yard, being dogs together.

Saber also became my running buddy, and even came with me roller blading a couple times. I always valued those excursions, just me and my little guy, my dog, my shadow. Whem my boyfriend was sent to Iraq for many months, I housesat for him (we did not live together), and there was never a doubt, when I dropped off to sleep, that both of my dogs would alert me to trouble. They hemmed me in on both sides as I slept and to this day, I think of that as a form of God's protection in canine form, small guardians as a token representation of our hidden angelic guardians.

Well, all stories come to an end, and my boyfriend and I broke up. We were not enemies, but I didn't own a house so I couldn't take the dogs with me. Yet I came over and watched them when R was at work as he was on 48 hour shifts. I was going to purchase a townhome and intended for the dogs to come with me. Granted, R had paid for them, but I had trained them, I had been the one to bond with them when R was in Afghanistan and Iraq...and I was the alpha dog of the "pack" which consisted of both human and animal.

Shortly before I closed on my house, I dropped by to bring a dog pack for transferring toys and things between houses. On that day, I remember that the dogs no longer saw me as "Alpha". R was Alpha. I was just a long-lost member of the pack held in high regard. And I remember R's eyes, looking up at me from his position on the floor with one of the dogs, almost pleading, although I'm sure he doesn't really remember the incident. I realized that I had lost the leadership position by my absence...and that they weren't mine anymore. I realized that the house I was buying didn't have a fenced yard...and I realized it would be hard on the dogs and me to move them back and forth for 2 week stints.

I realized that I was acting like a divorced parent, and that the dogs weren't children...they were dogs.

It broke my heart, but before I left his house that day, I had made the decision to give them up. To let him have the dogs. Yeah, I'd put the work into them, I loved them, and they provided much comfort to me in a difficult time in my life. But it was over.

The next day I called R and told him he could have them, I relinquished my claim on the dogs and ordered him to take good care of them...they would always be my dogs. He promised to do his best.

Some months later I had purchased my house and had another dog from the Humane Society this time. R brought our dogs, Saber and the other, over and I "dog-sat". The lack of my alpha status was not lost on me although I was happy to see my old canine friends again.

That was the last time I saw my dogs. I still have the German Shepherd I adopted when I purchased my townhome, and I also have a greyhound now, but photos of my other two, my first pets, are still wandering around the house and have never left my heart.

On Tuesday of this week I had a very unsettled feeling all day long. Something had been "off" all day, and it completely destroyed my apetite, whatever it was. I was hungry, but I couldn't eat and chalked it all up to stress.

Then I got home and saw that R. had called. I knew it could be nothing but bad news. I don't think I've spoken to him in over a year as he's married now, you someone else, so we have no reason to maintain contact. So I knew the news was bad, and he broke the news well; yet I could hear the tears in his choked voice coming to me over my voicemail.

Saber died that afternoon, and we don't know why. R was calling me because he figured that I would want to know.

I called him back as soon as I got the message and didn't even identify myself before asking how it happened. R didn't need me to ID myself...we had been together for over 3 1/2 years, and somehow, shared grief suspends time.

He was literally in tears as he told the story; at times he could barely speak. R. related how Saber had been sick that day, had not been himself, and finally R. called the vet, very concerned and brought him in. He had to leave him there but recieved a call shortly after; Saber had died. The vet didn't even get a blood sample. He'd never seen a dog crash so quickly.

R. told me about the dogs, how they're doing now. R. is married, has been for awhile, and they have a 7 month old daughter. Our little Saber, our little ball of aggression and fear, our little problem dog, whom we feared to allow around children became their daughter's personal guard. Saber would not leave her side, simply took to her as a duck takes to water and would not be moved. I'd be lying if I said I was not proud of the little guy. He found his place in the world, and that place was at the side of a child; a new life.

Now Saber has been called back to the Lord, and I regret that the little girl he had protected will never remember her canine sentinel.

Was it poisoning? Heart failure? Is the other dog, Phoenix, in danger of getting into something? Both R and the vet agreed they wanted, nay...NEEDED to know what happened, so Saber is now at the University of Minnesota, either having undergone or still waiting to undergo a necropsy.

I haven't heard anything yet.

My last two nights have been very busy so I have not had a chance to address this. I had to quickly get control of myself Tuesday evening before I went to my commmittments, I was depressed all day Wednesday, unable to get my mind around the idea that Saber is no more, and so tonight, I stopped off to talk to Jesus about it.

When a human dies, we pray for their souls. As Catholics, we do not believe that animals have IMMORTAL what do I do? How do I grieve a dog? Where is all this in God's plan? What am I doing crying over a dog that isn't even mine anymore?

A few years ago I read a book called, "The God of Small Things", by Arundhati Roy. She had a gift with words, and described the feeling of grief in perfectly poignant leaves a hole in the universe. So now, I have to adopt that term in reference to this loss, for now I have a Saber-shaped hole in my universe. He simply IS NO MORE.

When I gave up my dogs, I grieved greatly. I knew I was doing the right thing, and I think that made it hurt even more. I had to voluntarily break an attachment, an attachment which was in and of itself, good. Yet I grieved and then went on with my life, conforted by two things:

1. My dogs were alive and were being cared for and I had no doubt that R. would continue to give them a good life; and
2. I was now free to rescue two more dogs. And I wouldn't have to share them or give them up unless God said otherwise.
3. I went on to rescue two more dogs, so my conscience is clear, my committment being fulfilled. And I have made it clear to God that I recognize these as HIS dogs, for which I have stewardship. He can have them if He wants the, although I would admittely be heartbroken if He chooses to take them back.

Now, here I am, years later. I have my own two dogs, and then R calls and the past comes back. I realize that I never got a chance to say goodbye to my little guy. His picture still graces my wall, and his cocked head and bright eyes will never leave the photo album God placed in my heart.

But I don't know where to go from here. I thought the attachment had been broken, but here I find that I still love the little guy, and I'm still crying over a dog. Just a dog.

Yet even the Bible says that God knows each and every hair on our heads; he knows when a humble sparrow falls from the sky. He dresses the lilies of the He must have known my Saber. And He must have been the one to call Saber back to the dust from which he was created.

So tonight I went to Adoration, planning to talk to God about something else, but somehow, when I got in front of Jesus, I could only ask Him to help me know what to do with this grief I feel, and what meaning it has in my life. Saber was just a dog, wasn't he? Why and how does his life and death matter so much? He lived only 6 years or so....6 years. The blink of an eye, not even a grain of sand in the eternity which swallows us all...but for God's grace.

And Jesus helped me understand. It is a timeless tale of love, of sacrifice, of understanding. It is a tale told by Divinity, and rarely understood by Fools such as myself. And this is why God uses pets to help us understand.

We, as human beings, are made for attachments; we are social, we create societies, and we live in and contribute to communities. This is how we are wired and it happens through attachments. Where there is attachment, there is love, as love is the primary form of attachment, proceeding from God himself. We as human beings are called to love, and we extend that love not only to other people, but to pets as other living beings.

Yet there is a catch; suffering is a part of love; if you have not suffered for what you love, it is either because the suffering has not yet begun, or it is not love. There is such a thing as attachment without love. But where love flourishes, one can guarantee that suffering is a large part of it, and the love far outweighs the required sacrifices.

We adopted Saber, and first suffered with him through his (and our) trials because it was the right, responsible thing to do. As stewards of creation, we offered this little bit of God's gift to the world a chance to breathe the air before giving up on him...and he proved to be worth the effort. That dog taught me a lot through those trials, both good and bad about myself and about the world. There was love there, and there was suffering.

Saber and the other dog were gifts from God, directly from Him, and as I had posted just last week, God asks us to be willing to give Him everything. I wasn't much of a Catholic at the time, and I didn't understand the meaning of suffering and sacrifice, but I knew I had to make a choice; do the right thing and give Saber and Phoenix up, or be selfish and make everyone's lives miserable, including my own.

I chose the difficult route, and quite honestly, I think I matured that day. Yeah, I cried, I was depressed, and I grieved....but I never took it back. I'm sure the Holy Spirit directed my actions that day and I still thank God for that for I grew spiritually through this pain.

Years later now...I thought the attachment was gone. I have two other dogs. They have never replaced the first two, but I no longer grieve. Life has gone on and I have not regretted my decision although I mourn from time to time.

Then R calls and tells me that Saber has died...leaving a Saber-shaped hole in the world. Leaving me to realize that attachment, that love, was still there and I had only buried it out of necessity.

The pain is fresh, the wound has been ripped open, and I have begun to wonder if I never really gave him to God in the first place?

But Jesus helped me understand this as well. There is repetition here; first the conscious choice to suffer for a greater good, a willingness to give back to God what was always His to begin with. Then God calls His creation home, and again, I have to revisit attachment; and again, I have to realize that Saber belonged to God, and to God he has returned, in whatever form God has willed.

And it hurts to do this. It hurts to love, because love REQUIRES and DEMANDS sacrifice. And as much as it hurts right now, I would not have done this differently; I would still have adoptd and worked with Saber, I would still have given him up when the time came...and I would not give up this Saber-shaped ache in my soul for all the world, for it has helped me to understand, just for a moment, the suffering of Jesus Christ on our behalf.

You wonder how a DOG, of all things, could teach me this?

Because Jesus voluntarily died for us, suffered for us. Yet we go on...we come back in some way, or live virtuously for awhile...and then we turn on him, stab Him again, and suffer spiritual death by choosing mortal sin. That hurts Jesus in a major way, yet He would not choose differently for He prefers his suffering to our loss. He loves us so much He is willing to suffer great pain, to sacrifice....because the love bewteen us and Jesus is so much more powerful than the pain. Because God is love...because if we do not understand pain, suffering, and sacrifice, then we will NEVER understand love.

Because Saber died this week, I have suffered. But because grief arises out of love, I now have a better understanding of love, and a greater understanding of the mercy of Jesus. How many times have I caused Jesus such pain, multiplied so many times over? And yet, Jesus has never turned away from me...Jesus has always told me that it was worth it.

Jesus will never reject us because life beats us up, because we choose the wrong path, or because we die to Him instead of our sin. He suffers the pangs of grief...and waits because he knows that it is not over yet.

It does not matter that Saber does not have an immortal soul. He belongs to God, has always belonged to God, and for a couple years, he was my charge, and for most of his life, he taught me something about love, a lesson I needed to learn.

I will always miss Saber--I will never forget those special times with my "little guy", or his big, bright eyes looking up at mine devotedly. Some people don't understand the bond between a pet and their owner...and I would argue that those same people might be missing out on one of God's great lessons. In all humility, I thank God for using a simple, lowly dog to teach me how desperately we need to suffer in order to understand God's love for us.

And I thank God for reminding me that no matter how beat up we are, or how beat up another sould might be, or how difficult, there is always a chance of redemption and every life is precious; every life deserves a chance for God does not put souls on this planet for nothing.

God, I was attached to Saber, and I will aways miss him. Thank you for giving me charge of him even for awhile, thank you for turning his very humble life around and placing him, in turn, into the companionship of an infant girl. He was never mine, God, but just the same, I offer Saber back to you, I offer you every bit of training it took, the money, the time, and the aggravation, and I offer you his life, and I give him back to you in a much better condition than he was in when he arrived into my care.

Lord, may all that we touch, all that we do, always have such results, all through the benefit of your direction and grace, and may we always be able to learn how to love more deeply and understand more clearly through suffering, no matter how insignificant.

Christian One-Liners

Found this post over at Veritatis Splendor-- read it all, but here are a few lines:

Don't put a question mark where God put a period.

Don't wait for 6 strong men to take you to church.

Forbidden fruits create many jams.

God grades on the cross, not the curve.

God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.

He who angers you, controls you!

Prayer: Don't give God instructions -- just report for duty!

The task ahead of us is never as great as the Power behind us.

The Will of God never takes you to where the Grace of God will not protect you.

We don't change the message, the message changes us.

And my favorite:

God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

Go read the whole thing and add a few of your own!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Lord....what have I done?

Ok, now I've done it. I've gone and pulled an "Adoro".

Tonight at RCIA I was presented with an opportunity to sign up for future Gospel reflections and to be a Catechist.

Well, next week I'm speaking on the following Sunday's readings, so I'll be preparing a talk there.

The following week there is no class due to All Saints' Day...but the week after....

Are you ready?

My topic, my first topic as a Catechist...Catholic Social Teaching and the 10 Commandments.

I have a history of jumping into things with both feet. Law Enforcement, Firefighting...and neither of those ended so well for me. Now I'm doing it again. I'm jumping in as a catechist with both feet on maybe one of the more difficult and potentially controversially-charged topics. But I really felt called to choose this topic, so maybe there's a real purpose here.

But it requires study, so thank GOD I have the time to prepare!

Please, everyone, keep me in your prayers because I really will need them to get through the next few weeks...for more reason than one. (A recent tragedy I will blog about later).

Also, good resources on Catholic Social teaching are needed. Wasn't there a Vatican II document on this? Or an encyclical?

Last week I asked, "Lord, what must I do", but I guess then I will go into the next weeks with the query, "Lord, what have I done...?"

As always, please keep all RCIA students, catechists, and priests in your prayers.

Monday, October 16, 2006

"Equality" is NOT Synonymous with "Dignity"

We live in a really messed-up culture. Like that's a newsflash of any type.

It's amazing how much we still hear the term "equality" thrown aroudn like so much chaff on the wind. Which it is, by the way.

So often it's used in reference to marriage, both partners should be "equal". To our culture, "equal" does not mean "equal in dignity", for our culture also does not understand dignity. It defines equal as "the clone of" whatever is being compared.

Well, I'm putting my foot down. As a woman, I am no man's clone! I do not want to be "equal" to a man. I do not want to be compared to him in all that I do for as a woman, God has given me other gifts, other roles to fulfill, and men cannot do some of them.

Why must I have to be like a man in order to be a good woman? How does that enhance my dignity as a woman? Or does forcing me to conform to this idea of "equality" rather inhibit and usurp my dignity of a woman?

The latter, people. Women, take note. If you are seeking to be like men, and denying your femininity, then you have lost the battle. You are not a man. Don't act like one.

This, coming from an ex-cop, ex-firefighter. Let me give you all a dose of reality;

I was never really that much of a tomboy. I liked my Barbie dolls, sure, but I also liked GI Joe. Fine. I wore dresses, I painted my nails, but something in me made me pursue law enforcement as a career. So in college, I set out to conform myself to what I thought I had to become in order to do the job; I set out to masculinize myself. Just as every woman does who seeks such jobs.

Why? Because she has to. Because she has to be "equal".

They changed the standards in some of the tests to meet the abilities of womem, but let me tell you...some of those physically-demanding tests recognized abilities we have and made OUR standards higher and sure enough, we blew the guys out of the water on those.

As I pursued this goal, I saw my body more as a machine to be trained, to be that I could compete with guys on their level...and even surpass them.

It was more so in firefighter training. Do you realize that a woman has to work three times as hard to do the same job? Why? Because the job does not cater to us...we need to be able to lift heavy equipment, drag heavy equipment, and develop a thick skin in order to fit into the male culture. We have to change to become something else because pursuing that job is not natural to us.

I was injured in training and while on light duty, I met a female firefighter who had been on the job for many years. She was one of the few non-lesbian women on the job, and she was very candid with me regarding the toll the job had taken on her physically.

"You want my advice? Do whatever basic time you have to, and then get promoted. I've been doing this job for almost 20 years...I was one of the first women hired on this department, and my body is wearing out. I can't keep it up. I can't keep doing this, and I'm in worse shape than women I know who are not on the job. We have to work so hard to do what comes so easily to the men that it takes a toll on us, physically...."

Wise words from a woman who could not have forseen what would happen to her.

I am not against women working in traditionally male-dominated fields. I have known many gifted female cops and firefighters, and they serve their communities and God in a special way. It is a calling, whether male or female, and women do have special gifts and abilities which are indispensible to the careers in question. The presence of women in the cited fields has definitely changed things for the better, so do not think that I am anti-working-women. I am simply not.

What I AM against, however, is the complete denial that women are different than men. We need to face that fact, and we need to do it now. I, as a woman, should not be forced to try to "overcome" my femininity because being a woman is not a "condition" to be is a very state of being. It is a gift from God.

Affirmative Action has been harmful to women. If I could count the number of times people have suggested that I only got into my jobs because I was a woman and they had to fill a quota, AND I didn't have to work as hard....WRONG! I had to work my TAIL off to get into those jobs, and I'd do it again. But NEVER suggest to any woman that the standards were "easier" fact, they are more difficult because we have to do MORE to reach the same standard.

It is not natural, and that which is not natural is dangerous to our dignity both as men and women.

Women trying to be like men is harmful to the dignity of men. Men need their own places in society, and via the femininization of our culture, we have robbed men of their natural inclinations...and we have created a couple of generations of wussy men. How sad. No wonder I'm not's so hard to find a real man these days, someone who is not afraid to speak up and say that God got it right and we need to stop messing with it.

What has radical feminism done? It has confused children who have grown up to be confused adults trying to be "equal" while denying their very gifts specific to their sex. We all have special gifts, special needs that belong only to our genders, and when we try to be something we're not, it doesn't only affect us, but it affects society.

Feminism has caused motherhood to be looked down upon. It has gone from a source of justice (voting in the 20's), to the right to kill their children, forcing this "right" upon others without due explanation as to the detriment of such an act both upon the baby and the woman, and it has tried to make women into men. Feminism has made women into objects of lust, rather than obtained more respect which we are due. And likewise, men suffer...they are objects, too. Where is the dignity in that?

In my quest for the jobs I noted, I lost some of my femininity, and I'll never get it all back. I had to be like a guy...I had to be tough, and even though I painted my nails and curled my hair, I still had to work hard every day to avoid the insult, "You did that like a girl".

Being like a girl was a bad sad, considering that I am now, and I always was...a girl. A daughter of God.

Our culture does not recognize this. They try to make us "equal" where no equality exists. They try to make us see each other as identical, but this is a denial of what we are really meant to do, a denial of our natural instincts and tendencies.

Motherhood is beautiful. A gentle nature is beautiful. Strong women have always existed. I'll be the first to say the Blessed Mother was a very strong woman--her very "yes" to God was a risk of public defamation leading to a death by stoning. We must never forget that, for this poor girl risked death to bring life into the world...she stood up to the culture in order to do God's will, and in doing so, she fulfilled her gift of femininity...and her divine Son saved the world.

Women, do not shirk away from who you are. Be proud to be a woman, and away from anything that damages what it means to be a woman. Run away from contraception for it stops the process of life and gives men control of our bodies. We are the ones who suffer from the use of such toxins in our bodies...not men. By using thse things we give men permission to see us as objects for their pleasure. Does that make you comfortable? Does it make it OK for men to be "used" in the same way...especially when it is still women who are suffering the consequences and side effects of the poisons in the form of a little pill? It is we, the women, who flush our children, unknowngly, down the toilet each month.

Did you know the pill causes abortions? If conception occurrs, the chemicals in the pill cause too harsh an environment, and even without our consent, a life is born..and a life dies and is flushed away.

A couple generations of women have now flushed millions of children into the sewer with the rest of our bodily waste.

How is that an affirmation of dignity? How does that make us equal to anything but sewer scum?

If being "equal" means that I have to deny what it means to be a woman, then I don't want to be equal. I just want to be a woman, made in the image of God, retaining the dignity God gave me, and in the end, I want to give it all back to Him.

I'm just a girl, and darn it, that's all I want to be!

Give me dignity, or give me death. The "Liberties" of this society are simply not worth it.

Friday, October 13, 2006

That's what I'm talking about...the Elephant in the Room

The media does not have the intellectual ability to move beyond the scandals of the Church, even when confronted directly on their inability to do so, even when writing an article about something wonderful, that is, the canonizations of new saints. Read the article here.

And the author even relies on dissident theologian Fr. McBrien to suggest not-so-subliminally that such "unjust" condemnation against those perpetuating heresies might actually be saints.

In that way, she is like many saints who found themselves bucking church authorities while alive, only to be acclaimed as saints after their deaths, said the Rev. Richard McBrien, a theologian at the University of Notre Dame and the author of the 2001 book "Lives of the Saints."

"So many leading figures who had tussles with their bishop or other high-ranking ecclesiastical officials were later rehabilitated. History remembers them, but not the officials who gave them a difficult time," McBrien said. "I dare say that Mother Guerin, as a soon-to-be-canonized saint, will achieve an elevated status that will forever elude the bishop who dismissed her."

I'm not entirely sure what the author of the article is trying to suggest here by quoting dissident Fr. McBrien. Is Mr. Kusmer just suggesting that Mother Theodore is a Saint because she is a "criminal", as banished by the Bishop at her time? Or suggesting that she was only persecuted by a mislead Bishop, and allowing Fr. McBrien to comment as a parallel as a "persecuted priest" himself?

Never mind that he and Blessed Mother Theodore are not in the same category...I'd actually place Fr. McBrien in a category which resembled someone like Judas, or maybe pre-conversion Saul--the persecutor. But I don't expect and average journalist to get that. They aren't known for their intelligence OR their ability to think critically.

The other possible, unthinkable, yet "logical" by the thought process which seems to be in play, is that maybe those who committed the abuse referenced are really being persecuted and thus maybe one day a Pope will canonize them? Or perhaps only that the Pope of the future will canonize Fr. McBrien for his dissident theories? That seems to be the point of his commentary.

Really, there is no logic to this article, overall, other than to further the Church-attack agenda which is so common in every newspaper and TV station.

But we, those who can think critically, have the ability to see through the same ole' tiresome spin.

Pope Benedict XVI will canonize Blessed Mother Theodore Guerin as the first new U.S. saint in six years, a span marked in this country by the scandal over the sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

What does a canonization of a nun who had NOTHING to do with sexual abuse have to do with the referenced scandals? Are you counting? Start now.

That's #1.

The celebration of a new saint offers a respite from the lawsuits and settlements that have dominated much of the discussion of the U.S. church...

Where's the respite?

Methinks a certain sensationalism-addicted journalist with possible career aspirations to "The Sun" and "The National Enquirer" is dragging quite the elephant into the room. Because the only elephant in this story is the one the writer chopped into it.

There's #2.

Guerin will become the eighth U.S. saint and the first one canonized since Sister Katherine Drexel in October 2000.

A little more than a year after Drexel's canonization, the scandal over the sex abuse by Catholic priests erupted in the Archdiocese of Boston and spread across the country. Since then, hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements have been paid out, and bishops' popularity has waned, despite reform measures

Now we bring St. Katherine Drexel into the mix...and #3 in the referece to the scandals. What does she have to do with millions of dollars in settlements?

Benedict also will canonize Italian nun Rosa Venerini (1656-1728) and two 20th century clergymen: Italian priest Filippo Smaldone, founder of the Salesian order of nuns; and Mexican Bishop Rafael Guizar Valencia. Guizar was a great uncle of the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ order of priests whom the Vatican restricted from public ministry this year amid allegations he had sexually abused seminarians

There's #4. What on EARTH does this story have to do with Blessed Mother Theodore, the fronted topic to this article, or any of the other Saints to be canonized?

Nothing. The scandals have NOTHING to do with canonization. Dissident Father McBrien has nothing to do with it. If he converts, then I could say maybe...but as he stands now in outright rejection of the Church he professed to serve? Not so much.

Here's the reality, people...the author of this article clearly has an agenda against the Catholic Church. Maybe he was bored with the idea of covering the process regarding Sainthood, or maybe historical research wasn't his forte', so instead, he pulled out a few stock quotes from various media sources (they are all the same) and instead of doing his research, he posted controversial sources, thus the "elephant in the room" commentary.

We've all gone to school with "C" and "D" students, and in fact, when I was in college, people popularly quoted, "C's and D's get Degrees!"

I'm thinking that those students, as acertained correctly by Alexis de Tocqueville, became politicians and journalists. I'm thinking that Mr. Ken Kusmer, the AP writer who is responsible for this article, is one of those "D" students who doesn't quite know how to do research. This, after all, is the more preferable suggestion over the less charitable idea that he is doing this on purpose.

Who goes out to write about holy people and brings the unholy into the work?

No one but the lazy scholar relying on popular culture and his own personal anti-Catholic agenda.

We all really need to start commenting on this. We all really need to be willing to stand up for our faith and condemn such "reporting". This guy is nothing but a lazy ass with a vendetta against the Catholic Church, and in his apparent quest for accolades, he is picking on the kid who won't fight back--the Catholic Church.

Let's change that.

It's time for the media to take notice. We've turned our cheek far too often, and souls are being lost as a result of the slander and the libel.

Journalists, take notice. We're not turning our cheeks any more. We're going to turn YOURS.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Lord, what must I do to inherit eternal life?

On Wednesday night, I gave a talk on the scripture readings for this upcoming Sunday (October 15) to the RCIA class. The RCIA at my parish is liturgically-based; that is, each week, we present the readings for the upcoming Sunday, and if possible, tie them in with the scheduled lesson for the week. Well, as a fledgling teacher, I was given a simple task of acting as prayer leader (not so simple for me) the task of speaking on the scripture of the week.

The readings are for this upcoming Sunday, the 28th Sunday in Ordinary time. I read them all, but my focus was the Gospel reading.


The young man appreached Jesus, knelt down, and asked Him, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus replies to him, "Follow the 10 Commandments."

The young man goes on to say that he has done this...yet the reply of Jesus was not to praise his good behavior, but rather, to tell him that there is more to be done. God is asking for something RADICAL, not the mundane. Not the everyday. We are expected to follow the Commandments, so something greater is needed...the next step. Jesus tells the young man to give up all that he has, sell his belongings and give to the poor.

Then the Gospel says that the young man went away sad. Every Bible commentary or reflection I have ever read says that he was sad because he was rejecting Jesus, that he was sad because he was too attached to his material possessions and could not give them up. Yet I have to wonder why we always tend to focus on the negative. Let's look at this another way--maybe the young man was sad because, yes, he had to give up his attachments to earthly goods, but the Gospel never says that he didn't return to Jesus, having carried out the task as instructed. The Gospel is silent on this.

This last summer I attended a Bible Conference and met a woman who happened to be a United Methodist Pastor. I asked her what brought her to a Catholic Bible Conference, and she revealed that she was raised Catholic and believed, for a myriad of reasons, that she was coming back to the Church. She and I had a wonderful conversation and ended up sitting together that first evening of the conference to listen to the keynote speaker.

That evening, after the speaker, there was an Exposition and Benediction.

For those of you who don't know, this is when a large consecrated host (Blessed Sacrament), which is the Body of Christ, is placed into a monstrance (which is the container that displays the Blessed Sacrament) which is then placed on the altar for adoration. Certain prayers are said and there is time for personal prayer with Jesus. It is a very powerful devotion.

That night, when we had first come into the sanctuary to hear the speaker and we entered the pew, I had genuflected to acknowledge Jesus as all we Catholics do, but she had commented that she just "wasn't there yet." I told her that was fine; she should only do what she felt comfortable with. Yet before the Exposition began, I leaned over and explained to her what was going to happen and that people would be kneeling yet she did not have to do so if she was not comfortable with it, so remaining seated was OK.

Well into the prayers and adoration, I became aware that she was, in fact, kneeling, and shortly after that, I became aware that she was crying.

The next day I saw her at Mass, and again, she was crying. I did not approach her as I understand those moments...I've had them myself and the LAST thing we criers want is to have our tears acknowledged by anyone by God. Later on that day she came to me, very excited, and revealed that at Mass, she'd gone forward at Communion to recieve a blessing. She said she couldn't stop crying, and this made her realize that she really WAS Catholic, and she was coming home. She recognized Jesus in the Eucharist, and the seperation between Jesus and herself was breaking her heart.

The Pastor was and is really LIVING this Gospel message. She was sad because she was leaving her home, because she lived in a parsonage, she was leaving her ordination which was also her career and way of life, and thus her income. She was leaving all she had known as an adult, all because she was being called by Christ to become Catholic.

What a difficult task! Of COURSE she was sad! Of COURSE she went away crying, but that did not mean she would not trust in God and understand, believing the promises of Jesus that her sacrifices would be returned to her a hundredfold.

God is not asking ALL of us to make such sacrifices. He is not demanding that we leave our careers, families, and other possessions in order to follow Him. But he IS asking us to realize that everything we have is a gift from God. Our homes, our families, our possessions, our careers and the paychecks we take home...all of that comes from God. He doesn't necessarily want us to give up everything...but rather, to consider those gifts and be willing to break our attachments to our material possessions. God DOES want it all in a sense...just our willingness to give it back to Him.

During the Mass, there is a section called the "Offertory". It is not, as I used to think, just a time to sit and wait for the next thing to happen. This is a prime opportunity to consider the people in our lives we need to pray for, or to remember those we have spiritually brought with us to Mass. It is a time to take an inventory of what God has given us and consider, what, in return, we can give back to Him. What talents do we have? What are we good at? It is not just about throwing some change in the collection plate, but about prayer, offering of ourselves and being united with Jesus.

As it also states in the Gospel, Jesus acknowledged how hard it is for us to break with the attachments WE ALL HAVE. And he acknowledged that for us, it is impossible...but for God, all is possible. He will give us the grace to carry out what He is asking us to do.

This week, sit down with these readings, consider them, pray about them, and consider what God is asking YOU to offer back to Him, whether to your family, your work, or to the Church. What are your gifts? What can you share, and give back to God? It is about trusting in Him and remembering that all we have comes from God, and He will fulfill His promise that he will give us the grace we need to make our sacrifices, and he will return our offerings a hundredfold.

Everything we have comes from God. What is He asking YOU to give back to him this week this month, or this year? What grace is he giving you to enable you to make this sacrifice?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Lord, teach me to pray....

Those are "magic" words. They go right to the most Holy, Sacred Heart of Jesus and He can't help but respond immediately and with much love when asked a question in all sincerity.

Today I had to give my scripture reflection to the RCIA class (This Sunday's readings), and this assignment meant that I would also be the prayer leader for the evening. It was my job to begin and end the night with prayer.

I agonized over this all day because I am NOT gifted in the area of spontaneous prayer. Sure, I can speak to Jesus myself at any time, have an all-out conversation and I think I've even entered into contemplation a couple times. But leading a group in a spontaneous prayer? Foggeddabodit.

So this evening before class began I went to the Adoration chapel and in desperation, poured my heart out to Jesus in a simple prayer:

Jesus, tonight I have to lead prayer and you KNOW that I am horrible at this! Please tell me what to say! Jesus, please teach me how to pray!

I waited, I adored Jesus, and I recieved a very strong prompt to read today's Gospel. I had not done so yet and would not be attending Mass as I would be--gulp--leading prayer at the same time. As the prompt just got stronger, even though I wanted to focus on Sunday's Gospel as the topic of my talk, I realized I had to be obedient. What was a few minutes reflecting on what I should have read earlier today?

I opened my "Magnificat" and thumbed through to today's readings.

I nearly fell down in absolute adoration on the spot.

Have you read today's Gospel? In case you haven't, I'lll just repeat it. It's a short one.

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples." He said to them, "When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come, Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyon in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test."

(Luke 11: 1-4)

As I sat, stunned, reading the Gospel over and over, a great sense of being loved surrounded me in a way I'll never be able to explain. It was as though Jesus had come to me through a room full of people, took my hand, looked right through my eyes and into my soul, and literally BREATHED the words into my heart. It was so powerful I'm not sure I even had to breathe for myself for awhile.

I'll never say the "Our Father" in the same way ever again. It'll never mean more to me than it did tonight.

Thank you, Jesus, for teaching me how to pray.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Who did Jesus Hang out With?

I turned on EWTN today and a phrase rang in my head and suddenly there was a "CLICK!" as a very bright light came on. I've understood this before, but somehow, today, the connection was really made.

That phrase was, "Who did Jesus hang out with?"

Apparently I was just plain disposed, today, to hear this message. To understand this message. And to pass on the reality of this Gospel message to others.

I remember when I had fallen away, how I still prayed, recognized God, recognized sin, even though I rejected the whole thing. I remember how I fought with God, told Him I knew better and yet, in the depths of my spiritual agony, I still cried for Jesus to help me.

All these years, both before and since my conversion, I have wondered why Jesus was still with me. Why was he still there, hounding me, while I sinned, while I ran away from Him, and while I actively fought him? Why did He never turn His Most Holy back and walk away, shaking the dust from His feet?

The answer is in that simple phrase: "Who did Jesus hang out with?"

Jesus hung out with sinners. He hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors (apparently quite an offense), with Gentiles and with those on the fringes. He hung out with the disenfranchized, with the lost, and with the lonely. He hung out with the people who had not only given up on society but on themselves.

And in His presence, Jesus explained that God loved them, that they were important, and that they were in need. He graced them with His presence, and gave them a taste of community...He welcomed them, He focused on what they needed, and rather than making them come to God...He brought God to them.

Jesus still brings God to us...He came as a human child, lived a life like any other man on earth, and then began His ministry...only to die for it. He died for us...He died for rebellious young adults like myself. He went to the Father and said, "Forgive her for she does not know what she is doing. Let me take her punishment."

And then he died a horrible death.

And then, 2000 years later I was born, I lived, I rebelled, and then I realized that He had never once given up on me. He never withdrew his extended hand. He never walked away, as much as I turned my back on Him, as much as I raged against Him, as much as I watered down what I had been taught so as to try to allay my conscience. He was still there and He followed me wherever I went. Why? Because I was already lost. He did not want be to be mired in a pit, to disappear into the darkness forever.

When Jesus was on earth, He went out of His way to find the sinners and he publicly proclaimed this. He gave His attention to those who most needed it...those who were wounded, those who were abandoned, shunned, or even lost by their own preference.

Jesus is still doing this today. He is still reaching out, he is still seeking out we, the sinners of the world, and once he brings us in he is putting us to work.

Well, Jesus found me and finally convinced me to come back home, and after a period of healing, He is putting me to work. Yet I'm still a sinner and He still seeks me in the depths of my injuries, ever patient, ever loving, and ever sacrificing so that I will never be lost again.

Jesus is doing this for you, right now. If you're reading this, then you are meant to read it, and Jesus is asking you to reach out and take His hand, to never give up on Him because He will NEVER give up on YOU.