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Thursday, November 30, 2006

St. Frances de Sales' Devout Life - Advent Reading

This is a difficult time of year for me as it is, and on top of it, I have just begun reading St. Francis de Sales Introduction to the Devout Life

As a dear Marian Sister I know has observes, this book is anything BUT an "introduction"! And yet, it has hit me right between the eyes! If you haven't read it, I recommend it highly, but read it in pieces. Another dear friend gave it to me on Thanksgiving, and the following day I picked it up, read a bit...and set it down. Then picked it up again. St. Francis's style is very easy and coherent...and gentle. Yet firm.

And I think that's what makes this so difficult. Because he speaks like a father, refers to the reader as "my daughter", and he writes with authority...the kind that cuts more deeply than a scalpel.

You know how it is when you cut yourself with a razor, initially you feel nothing. Your first sign that you have slipped is not the pain, but the blood. And sometimes just the sensation of the slip and if you look closely, you realized you have gashed your skin, but it's minutes before the blood appears.

The truth St. Francis avails us to is like that...yet deeper, more like a scalpel, merciless, yet gentle and healing.

He even takes on the other saints, is critical of St. Paula, St. Bernard in his earlier years, and uses them as an example to the rest of us, so that we won't be so intimidated.

Yet, in the first few chapters I was so intimidated that I read, I set the book down, declared it was impossible, and walked away. Yet it drew me back because there was TRUTH there, and it wouldn't leave me alone. Yes, I was bleeding, and indeed, the very knife that caused the wound also linked to the remedy.

This book has hit me squarely between the eyes. As I went on reading, even as I wanted to reject it, it drew me in and it was as though I was being forced to look at myself in a mirror, ultra-magnified, under surgical-flourescents, and asked to take a GOOD LOOK at what I saw.

And the sight wasn't pretty. Not at all.

I imagine that someone who has been involved in a disfiguring accident has much the same reaction. First the accident occurs, and then, after they wake up, they are given a mirror, the doctors, therapists, family, etc., knowing that as painful as it is to recognize the disfigurement, the patient needs to understand what happened. If we don't recognize where and how we are wounded, we cannot even hope to fix it. Nor can those sent to help us. And so that person stares into the mirror, first in denial.....then in shock..and that person is drawn back again and again, trying to come to terms with what he or she sees, and understand that it is a true reflection.

That's where I've been this week....trying to understand that yes, this is a true reflection of myself, it's not pretty...and if I am to become closer to the Lord, then I need to first see the flaws. It is not my place to fix them, no more so than a woman disfigured by flashburns can fix herself. It is the place of the Divine Healer to come in, take the mirror away, and ask us all to place our trust in Him alone. To recognize, not deny, that we are in pain, that we have been disfigured, and that in order for the remedy to occur, there will be significant pain, sacrifice, and effort on all parts, yet in the end, the result will be miraculous.

Doctors cannot promise redemption or miracles to a disfigured person. And sometimes, God does not choose to erase the physical maladies we all suffer. Yet He does promise to erase the spiritual maladies, yet not without our cooperation. Not without our effort in walking the path to holiness.

The readings this coming Sunday are all about walking the path to holiness, doing God's will, and trusting in him. They are about avoiding the chaos of the world and remembering who we are and that we look forward to the coming of Christ, again, while we remember the historical birth of the infant Jesus.

The Lord does not ask us to complete an easy task, but so far, in my 32 and nearly 1/2 years, I have never once found that the most difficult things were not also the most worthwhile. Jesus asks us to follow Him, to do as he did...and in order for us to carry this out, we must come to terms with our sinfulness, our attachments to sin, and the fact that we do not walk this road alone. Jesus became one of us, suffered horribly and died in humility so that we could enter Heaven. The least we can do is recognize our own attachments to those things that seperate us from following Jesus, and in doing so, learn how to grow in holiness.

If you are looking for solid, challenging, prayerful Advent reading, I highly recommend this book. Already, after a few chapters and meditations, I recognize that my life will never be the same.

Praise God, may it be so for you as well.

St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Inspiring Find

Tonight I pulled out my Advent Candles that I plan to bring ot RCIA on Wednesday in order to help explain some of our Advent traditions and observations.

When I pulled it out, my "baby book" came with it, and out of curiosity, I pulled it out. My Mom had stuffed all sorts of odds and ends into this book, and even wrote a few things in it during my high school and college years.

But one thing just sort of fell into my lap. It was a holy card wiht scalloped edges. The back is in my mother's script:

To Julie, March 14, 1982, on the day of your 1st Confession. Remember you will be talking to Jesus as well as to Father W. Next week you will recieve Jesus. Love, Mommy

The front of the card depicts a little girl in her communion dress and veil, approaching a type of arched altar, flowers on either side. One lit candle is apparent and given the symmetry of the picture, a second lit candle is suggested but perhaps only hidden from view. Jesus stands in an elevated position upon that arched altar, his head inclined slightly towards the little girl, the most tender expression upon his Most Holy visage. In his right hand he holds the Eucharist, in the left, the chalice containing his Precious Blood. The little girl stands facing Jesus, her hands folded, eyes upward towards her Savior, ready to recieve Him.

It is a picture of such divine purity and theological truth; it just makes my heart ache!

I wish I had a scanner so I could share this with you all!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I TOLD you I was a geek!

This one's been making the rounds, so I was curious as to where I would "rank". Now I know.

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Father Walter Ciszek

I have, of late, been praying a lot for guidance, asking for the intervention of the Saints, and last night, I said a small prayer....I asked to be notified of any Saints, known or unknown, to let me know if they are intervening for me on my behalf so that I may recongize them.

Today, I went to St. George's Christian Books and Gifts, and there, the owner gave me a prayer card for Father Walter Ciszek. He discussed a book by this priest which was recently given to many priests, some of whom have revealed that the insights within had changed their lives.

I have done a search on the web for more information on the priest, finding nothing. So if any of you out there are familiar with Father Ciszek, please post whatever information you can provide!


Lord Jesus Christ, I ask the grace to accept the sadness in my heart, as your will for me, in this moment. I offer it up, in union with your sufferings, for those who are in deepest need of your redeeming grace. I surrender myself to your Father's will and I ask you to help me to move on to the next task that you have set for me.

Spirit of Christ, help me to enter into a deeper union with you. Lead me away from dwelling on the hurt I feel:

to thoughts of charity for those who need my love
to thoughts of compassion for those who need my care, and to thoughts of giving to those who need my help.
As I give myself to you, help me to provide for the salvation of those who come to me in need.

May I find my healing in this giving.
May I always accept God's will.
May I find my true self by living for others in a spirit of sacrifice and suffering.
May I die more fully to myself, and live more fully in you.

As I seek to surrender to the Father's will, may I come to trust that he will do everything for me.

With Ecclesiastical Approval

adapted from the spiritual teachings of Rev. Walter J. Ciszek, SJ.

The Father Walter Ciszek Prayer League, Inc.,
231 North Jardin Street
Shenandoah, PA 17976
(570) 462-2270

Official Organization for the Promotion of the Cause of Canonization of REV. WALTER J. CISZEK, S.J.


Thanks to Jennifer F.. who provided this link about Father Ciszek! Please read the whole will make you cry!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

And the Grace is flowing....

I recieved a response to my e-mail today, which I intend to follow up with a phone call on Friday.

Here is the information provided from Ave Maria University:

Thank you for your interest in the Institute for Pastoral Theology of Ave Maria University!

Our graduate program offers a Masters in Theological Studies in a unique format. Our professors travel to sites around the country to offer classes for one intensive weekend each month, ten months out of the year. Provided we have the class-sizes we anticipate, we will be operating in the following sites in the Fall of 2007: Charleston, Green Bay, Janesville (Diocese of Madison), Kansas City, Naples (Diocese of Venice), Phoenix, St. Louis, St. Paul-Minneapolis, and Sanford (Diocese of Orlando).

It sounds as though you are aware of a special opportunity we are offering in the Diocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. We are offering a one credit course on the Writings of Pope John Paul II next semester. The dates are 2/18, 3/11, and 4/15. Students who take that course will have a lighter load in the fall, and the credit applies to the degree just as it would otherwise. In addition to being open to degree-seeking students, the course will also be open to people who have not yet decided whether to enroll in our program, and for those who are sure they will not seek the degree but just want to study John Paul II. So, if you are aware of others who might be looking for such an opportunity, feel free to spread the word!

If you have any other questions or would like to request an application, please do not hesitate to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you,

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sincerely in Christ,

Anna Knier

Institute for Pastoral Theology

Ave Maria University

1025 Commons Circle

Naples FL 34119

(866) 866-1100

Happy Thanksgiving INDEED!

So, my friends, spread the word. Ave Maria is sure not wasting any time in spreading the Good why should WE wait?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Small update on Grad School

First of all, thank you, all for your prayers and your support!

This is not over, nor have I made any decisions. This is only a minor setback and I can already see God's hand. That said...I still have no idea what God wants, just that He's there and he's paying attention.

I have not been able to reach anyone at UST. I left a message on Monday morning for the program director and have not heard back. The person who processes everything is out until next week. So my guess is that they have fled the coop for the week, leaving me unable to make a direct decision.

Which is OK. I learned something important yesterday, and if it turns out to be true, I actually would not have applied to UST. Yup, you heard me right. There's something BETTER coming.

Yesterday I ran into an acquaintance, an MA student in the Catholic Studies program I applied to. He learned of my being "turned down" and accepted as a non-degree-seeking student, and empathized...then revealed they'd done the same thing to him and to everyone who applies for the first time. Immediately I felt percieved failings aren't necessarily failings! However, had I known that I would not have asked people to write letters or do any work on my behalf, so I kind of feel like I wasted their time. My references have been supportive, however, so they don't seem to be too offended, thank God.

Actually, one of my references was my Manager, and he's happy to know that while he's losing a bunch of other people on our team, I'll still be there. *sigh*. I'm glad HE'S happy....

But I digress.

The acquaintance told me that he's leaving the CS program, anyway, for another. Apparently Ave Maria University (of Naples, FL) is going to be offering a satellite grad program RIGHT HERE in the TWIN CITIES METRO AREA! Apparently there is not yet a spring semester set up but they are gearing up for one, thus perhaps, if they do offer it I can still apply!

A priest at my parish had gone to a talk on this and had brochures, told me that he'd give me one, and tonight I stopped by the parish office to pick one up. In reading through it, it seems to refer only to the Naples campus, however there was an e-mail address and I sent a note to make some inquiries.

This degree is for an M.A. in Pastoral Theology, calls upon the liberal arts background (which I have) and is basically for students...just like me! It is also more theologically focused than the Catholic Studies program, and not so hard core as the Theology program.

I will then wait to hear back on this program and see if the rumor is indeed true. As I understand it, they are going to use a local parish school for the satellite program, which runs once per month Friday night through Sunday afternoon. If full time, that is. I have to assume there is a part-time option.

So now I will sit and wait...and perhaps I will withdraw my app to UST in favor of a more orthodox and faithful program. Or perhaps I will learn that now is not the time and God has a different plan. In any case, I am happy AMU is coming to my city!

Anyone interested in this program can find it at Ave Maria's website for the Institute for Pastoral Theology.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Finally got word on my M.A. application...

Well, the wait is over, and there are now several decisions I no longer have to make.

I was not least, not as a degree-seeking student. They cited concerns with my academic background and potential "fit" with the program. I'm wondering if most of it has to do with the fact that I had very little Theology, and those courses I did have were absolute crap. Given this is a Graduate course of study, I could see where this might be a problem.

What non-degree seeking means is that it's a conditional acceptance with no benefits. I can take up to 2 courses, and then use a paper for that course and get a recommendation from one of the profs, then resubmit my app.

It also means that I cannot qualify for financial aid. Which means that I may not be able to pay for even one course.

Now, before you all start taking up a collection for the "Send Adoro to Grad School fund", (yeah, right!), consider that they may be right about "fit". This is a big step, and a costly one. If I get there and indeed, the "fit" is wrong, then I'd hate to spend the money for a few classes which would end up being worthless.

I have prayed and prayed, and I think much of my disappointment stems from the idea that I really would get accepted. I had great references, although, granted, they weren't professors. I do not know what my references said in their letters or if that was even a factor. I know that they gave me their unquestioning support, and for that, I'm grateful. But then to get today's letter, realizing that somehow, I didn't measure up right, it's a tough blow to the ego, so right now the only thing I'm nursing is my pride. And I have to say, I am lacking in humility to begin with so this is a lesson I need.

So where do I go from here? I am going to call the person in charge of the program and get some more specifics of my conditional acceptance/conditional denial, and see where I'm lacking. What is their concern about "fit"? Does it have more to do with my academic/professional experience? I have more background than what was allowed on the application, this may not be an issue. If it's academics, do I need to take some undergrad theology courses? Or is there a bigger reason?

What does God want of me? I have been praying, "Thy will be done", all the while expecting that God's will was that I would enter this program. Now, God's will has been done, so who am I do question God? If God wants me somewhere, he will get me there. Is there another program I should consider?

So tonight I have a heavy heart, and really, given the week I've had, I'm just thankful this letter wasn't recieved on Thursday. The Lord is indeed merciful, for he gave me some doses of grace before he broke the news, so I was able to recover a little from my recent trials before having to face this one. And thankfully, I picked up my mail right before I left for my Adoration hour, so during this hour I could address this whole issue to the Lord directly.

I'll tell you this...Jesus spoke to me today in Adoration, and over and over he asked me to trust him, to rely on him, and to let Him provide the answers before I go out seeking my own. So I will ask you all to continue to pray for me as I discern the next step. God is calling me to something, this much is clear...but I can't seem to see the next step in front of me.

Friday, November 17, 2006

An Invitation from Epiphany Frassati Society

"St. Paul says that "the charity of Christ urges us."
Without this flame, which should burn out our personality little by little and blaze only for other people's griefs, we would not be Christian, let alone Catholic."
--Bl. PGF

Holy Happy Hour
Join Fr. Wehman
at the Pizza Flame next Monday the 20th
at 6:30 for pizza, beer, and good conversation.
Invite anyone and everyone!

Pizza Flame
2016 105 Ave NW (1 bl. South and Coon Rapids Blvd. on Hanson)
Coon Rapids

Calling all Men

The Men’s Apostolate of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, in cooperation with the Office for Family, Laity, Youth and Young Adults, is sponsoring a Men’s Advent Morning Reflection on Saturday December 2nd from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

The event will take place at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, 11300 Frankfort Pkwy NE, St. Michael, MN 55376.

The Morning will include: a spiritual reflection given by Fr. John Klockeman, a tour of the new St. Michael’s Church directed by the Pastor, Fr. Michael Becker, time for Eucharistic Adoration and Confession, Mass,
presentations by Men’s Groups, and more! Cost is $10.00 and includes lunch.

To register or for more information, go to: <> or call (651) 291-4488.

Don’t miss this great opportunity to join other men
from the Archdiocese for a morning of fellowship and faith!

"We who by the grace of God are Catholics must steel ourselves for the battle we shall certainly have to fight to fulfill our program and to give our country,
in the not too distant future, happier days and a morally healthy society.
But to achieve this we need constant prayer to obtain from God
that grace without which all our powers are useless."

--Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, 1902-1925

of epiphany
young adults ages 18-35
Single, married, Religious

Our Mission:
Inspired by the life of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, the Epiphany Frassati Society seeks to unite the Catholic young adult community through outdoor recreation, spiritual growth, and Christian service while urging each other on towards holiness.

For more information on the Epiphany Frassati Society or how to get involved,
please reply to this email or call Lisa at 763.300.8297.
God bless you!

Rough Week and God's Incredible Grace

I've been having a week straight out of Hell. Workload, other stressors, but mostly work. Too much to do, too many deadlines, too many difficult or demanding customers, too many things that need to be done NOW...and there simply aren't enough hours in a day, ears on my head, or arms attached at my shoulders. Quite literally, my back and shoulders ache like crazy...and I don't do manual labor!

Weird dreams at night, unable to sleep a couple nights, dragging most of the spite of the craziness at work.

Yesterday I hit my breaking point and was literally hanging by a thread. Then at the end of the evening, while getting a voice mail in which a hysterical customer was (wrongly) reaming me out with much profanity, I looked over at my computer and saw a notification that I had a new assignment..with only minutes to go before the end of my day, with a callback that needed to be made IMMEDIATELY and other work needing to be done IMMEDIATELY. All this JUST after I had finished thanking God for the small grace of no new assignments that afternoon, thinking I was at least through Thursday. But Thursday hadn't ended.

I was nearly in tears when I left work, all the way home. I let my dogs out, and when I came back in with them, realized that somehow, my Shepherd had completely taken the folding door to the furnace room off the track...the whole door was hanging at a drunken angle.

I'm at a loss...finally managed to get the thing in a track, but not correctly so while the base is in place, I can't fully close the doors any longer. I think I'm too short to reach in and do this correctly.

At the time I was thinking I just wanted to stay home and relax, but then I felt the anger rising, all the while the dog looked at me guiltily. I fed them and left, realizing that I had to go straight to the source of all grace....Jesus.

I got to the chapel and was so stressed I couldn't even CRY! Usually when I'm at that point, I walk in the door, say "Jesus" and I become a puddle, give him everything, and leave feeling better, if not a bit sheepish.

But last night, nothing. I just desperately prayed, offered Jesus everything and told him that I couldn't take ANY MORE.

I got to work this morning, my heart still in my throat. I opened my computer only to find a note from my boss about yet ANOTHER thing that had to be done IMMEDIATELY.

I just put my head down and begged for mercy...please, more. I'll do my best, but I can't take any more than this. Quite literally, I was at the point that if one more thing was piled on me, I might have just walked off the job.

So I went about my day, trying not to cry.

Now, at the end of the day, I look back and realize that today, I did not get one single assignment. I cleaned several things off the proverbial plate and put out a few fires. I'm still overwhelmingly buried, but God's hand was clearly upon me. I don't know when it happened, but I know that for most of the day, I didn't feel like crying...not that I had time with my shoulder to the grindstone!

Today, the Lord gave me a HUGE dose of grace, and tonight, I need to go to Mass and thank Him. Thank you to those of you who knew of my rough week and prayed for me, thanks to St. Jude, St. Joseph, and St. Anthony, always the Blessed Mother, and forever, to Jesus.

It wasn't ME that got ANYTHING done was God. Were it not for him, I would have turned back to dust on the spot. Once again, all praise and glory to God!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Fraternal Charity

Our Mistress said to me one day: "Your programme of life seems to be this: I will be kind to those who are kind, and amiable with the amiable. Then, naturally you become agitated as soon as someone disagees with you. In this you are like the pagans spoken of in the Gospel. And Our Lord Himself tells us not to imitate them but rather 'do good to them that hate you and pray for them that persecute you.' To do good to those who only who are good to us springs from a wisdom that is merely human; in other words, all for self and nothing for God.

~My Sister Saint Therese, by Sister Genevive of the Holy Face (Celine Martin)

I am reading this book right now, and I am having to take it in bits and pieces. Not because it is difficult--quite the contrary! It is beautiful, fascinating, enlightening, and easy to read. But the powerful spirituality, the call to follow Christ and truly embrace his words...ALL OF THEM, is excruciatingly painful. Every time I read a passage I realize how far I am from sainthood, and I nearly despair of even meeting the minimum qualifications of a follower of Christ. This is the standard to which I would like to measure myself, but when I use this and then reflect upon it, I realize that I can't even reach the scale. So I'm learning it's best to read a little here and there, take it to heart, and give God the opportunity to chang me, rather than let despair darken the light He is trying to bring via the Little Flower's powerful explanation of what it means to be like Jesus.

Last night I was really down on myself, having read several passages. Then it came to me, I think via some words of St. Therese of Avila, another Carmelite and Doctor of the Church, reminding me that "self-knowledge", that is, awareness of our inability to do anything without the Divine Grace of God is a good thing and leads to the virtue of humility. So perhaps I am only suffering via a reduction of pride. It is not a sin to realize we do not measure fact, we need to understand that we cannot POSSIBLY measure up to the Saints, but must depend upon God to bring us to him.

All we have to do is reach upward towards him and He will reach back to us and lift us higher, one step at a time. And if we let go and fall back, He will wait and come back for us once again when we are ready and reaching back to Him.

God is infinitely patient, infinitely merciful, and loves us without bounds. So I'm sharing my lesson with you all, because I know we've all been there, where we are trying and seem to always be failing, and as a result, become discouraged. But then when we think we're failing, it's sometimes only a gift of self-knowledge, a recognition that we've maybe been relying too much on ourselves, we've been prideful, we've been vain...or what have you. And when we give in to those temptations, then God has no room because we close him out, shove His Divine hand aside and try to go our way. As soon as we recognize what we are doing, God is there and will embrace matter where we are, and once again set us on our way.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Imperfect Are in the Image of God

I am continuing in the vein of my previous post, but this time, I am going to focus on the "imperfect" people I used to work with. I think I learned more from them about who God is than from any other source.

When I first took the job, I remember being sent to a particular site in which I was told I would have to assist with "toileting". What's that? That, my friends, means helping people, adults in this case, use the bathroom. It involved changing diapers...for adults. It meant some major cleanup at times.

I was thoroughly disgusted and utterly humiliated at being forced to take such a job. I had just left a $32,000 annual income, not entirely by my choice, and I had to pay the bills. I was qualified for the job that replaced it, yet I didn't want to do the job. I nearly walked out the door.

Then it hit me, as I looked out through the steamed up windows of the front door of the facility; there was a blizzard outside, and God knows that people cannot drive even when the roads are dry. I could be involved in an accident on my way home, and that very night, I could be like those people in that facility that I was sent to serve.

Every time I became revulsed at the prospect of cleaning up one of these adults, I remembered that revelation...that it could be me there on the changing table. It could be me like that for the rest of my life...and how would I want to be treated? Would I want to remain in that filth? Or would I prefer that some compassionate person look beyond my physical incapabilities, my nasty bodily fluids, and treat me with dignity and respect and allow me to be clean and comfortable?

It worked, and it was a turning point. Somewhere in that, I realized that I was there because I needed to be humbled, because I had become very full of myself, and I needed a reminder. God used this job to remind me that I was naught more than dust, and dust formed in God's image and placed on this earth deserved respect.

My eyes were opened, and while I still can't say I liked my job, I will say that I learned a lot, and I loved the people I worked with. Their simple joys became my simple joys; their gratefulness touched me so deeply that I will never forget it.

I was sent to a day program for the physically and mentally disabled, and their disabilites spanned quite the spectrum! The classroom I was assigned to had a new teacher and one of the women in that class was struggling because she had bonded with the previous teacher and made great strides. This young woman had rarely spoken, but with that teacher, she had begun to finally speak...and when he left, she clammed up. Somewhere around 3 weeks after I had arrived, still not a peep out of her. She was shy and mistrustful and her beautiful, perfect smile shone only on rare occasions. Then one afternoon, the scent of popcorn wafted over from another classroom. This young lady walked up to the new teacher and said very quietly, "Popcorn, please."

You could have heard a pin drop. One of the other clients in that room even heard her and exclaimed, "She spoke!". There was much hugging, praising, and rejoicing, and she asked again, more loudly, "Popcorn please!"

Well, we weren't doing popcorn that day, but because this needed to be rewarded, she was taken from the classroom so that she could share some popcorn.

In the middle of all of this was another client, a man who did not have the use of his arms or his legs. He could tense his muscles, but that was it. He could speak a few words, a few short phrases, but that was the most he could accomplish. So he had a baseball hat fitted with a pointer, and used this to poke certain buttons on a "talker". While the machine made requests on his behalf, he looked up at the person he was addressing, expectantly waiting for an answer.

That day, though, he didn't speak. He just sat there and grinned happily, rejoicing openly about the leap made by his classmate. She was still being hugged, and she was...hugging back! Another huge stride for her!

I remember seeing him there, unable to do anything but grin, and I asked him, "Do you want a hug, too?" He grinned abashedly and admitted, "Yeeaaah...!" I was happy to reach out and give him a hug...hug a man who would NEVER be able to hug back. And I saw by the look in his eyes that these little expressions of love meant a lot to him. Even now I tear up to think of it.

In another location, there was a client who used to chew on his fingers until they bled, so he had to wear socks on his hands. On occasion he would become very upset and frustrated and begin beating his hands against he tray on his wheelchair. I learned that all he needed was a little walk over, pull up a chair, grab his hands and hold them down while speaking calmly to him. It didn't take him long to calm down and to begin responding, his black eyes snapping and sparkling. He could convey more with his eyes and his expressions than most "normal" people can through speech.

One of the women there, severely mentally disabled, had a wonderful sense of humor and we loved to make her smile and giggle, for it lit up the whole room.

Another woman, both physically and mentally disabled, again, had a great sense of humor that saved us from what really could have been a very tense moment.

I had been asked to stay late to assist the bus driver as the hydraulic lift wasn't working and so she needed help with the last couple of passengers. It was beginning to snow, and on our first trip out, the roads were already becoming a little slick. More so on the second then there was maybe a half inch on the ground and cluttering the roads as rush hour was beginning.

The driver was trying to get the trip done so she could make it to the garage by 5 so as to try to get the lift repaired. Hand cranking that lift was a lot of work and neither of us wanted to do it the next day!

So she was driving maybe a little faster than she should have been. We approached a slight curve, and on the other side of the low concrete median, a truck was coming in the other direction. I remember thinking that she was going too fast for the conditions and might not make it. I remember the sickening realization that indeed, we were NOT going to make the turn. The bus rode up over the curb, across the low median, and into the path of the truck! As the rear tires clunked down onto that oncoming lane and the driver tried to steer into the skid, the bus lurched up on the left wheels and careened towards the far ditch.

I am telling you now, the two ladies strapped into their wheelchairs on that overturning bus had very powerful guardian angels! Against all odds, not only did the bus come back down on all 4 wheels, but the truck was able to stop! All the traffic stopped, in both lanes for that matter, so that the driver could go back over the curb and into her lane.

Then I heard the laughter. I looked over at the lady in the wheelchair and in spite of the fact that my heart was in my throat, I couldn't help by smile. She was LAUGHING! As far as she was concerned, that was the best thing to happen all day! She looked over at me, eyes sparkling, grinning ear to ear, and absolutely enjoying life! She had no idea that, had that bus gone over, she would no longer be with us for her slightly-oversized head would have gone right through the window and into the pavement.

Or perhaps she'd seen the angels who tipped the bus back upright? Hard to say.

I learned a little about faith that day, and confidence in any storm. And I will never forget that smile she and I shared, after what was perhaps one of the most terrifying moments in my life. The driver was shaking, as was I, but this young woman, this "imperfect" young woman was LAUGHING, and her joy was contagious.

Brothers and sisters, the disabled in our midst aren't more so than the rest of us. They are, in fact, more generous, more loving, more temperate, more faithful, and closer to God than any of us will EVER be as long as we live.

I look back fondly on these "imperfect" people, and I hope, that one day, my soul will be formed as perfectly as God has formed theirs.

The next time you have the opportunity to spend time with someone who is disabled in some way, first remember that in the blink of an eye, you could be in the same position. Next remember that you are looking at the face of God, so be sure to look into their eyes, and whether you think they understand you or not, acknowledge them, greet them as you would anyone else, and take the time to ponder the greatness of God. It is through souls such as these that he teaches us the most.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Life issues are a big deal for Catholics. As sacred scripture proclaims, we are created in the image and likeness of God. "Male and female...He created them". It is the family, the very foundation of society, which is the reflection of God...not Man alone, not Woman alone. It is the love of man and woman together and their cooperation with God's creation in the form of a little baby that is the full reflection of God.

This is beautiful.

Recently, a bioethitist in Europe agreed that abortion involves kiling a human baby. He has no problem with this. He took it a step further, though; he feels that there is likewise no problem in taking the life of an "imperfect" baby--that is, a newborn child who happens to meet the subjective definition of "defective".

Well, as the daughter of two "defective" parents, I have to take issue with this. My mother was born with only one hand. She is thus, defective. My father suffered from the defect of Spina Biffeda and always walked with a limp, even after many many surgeries in his youth.

My mother was told that she could never have children, thus when she was pregnant with her first miracle child, my brother, she was overjoyed, and even more so when pregnant with me...another gift from God!

In that time period, during which Roe V. Wade legalized the murder of unborn children, people actually had the gall to approach my mother in her pregnancy and suggest to her that people like her shouldn't have children. Yes, really! Perfect strangers approached my one-handed mother in the grocery store, at the gas station, etc., and suggested she should murder my brother and I because she (Mom) was "defective" and might "pollute" the gene pool by pro-creating.

As you might understand, I am quite offended by this attitude.

But alas, I was also an "imperfect" child. I was born with a very lazy eye. One doctor told my parents that their daughter would never so much as stack blocks...due to my lack of depth perception. I was supposed to have had a very difficult life as a result of this genetic problem which I was not supposed to be able to overcome. Thankfully, no doctors suggested at that time, as they would in Europe somewhere, that I be taken out behind the woodshed and shot to spare everyone the agony of my "quality of life" issues.

It's a slippery slope, isn't it? It's a slippery slope...first contraception, the idea that we should have pleasure at whim, without communication, without God. Yes, how liberating that must have been to realize a simple pill could prevent a life from forming, but where did that lead us? It lead to this idea that we could have sex with multiple partners without consequence, we could engage in the act of procreation without procreating, and then...oops! Procreation happened anyway. That kind of put a cog in things, didn't it?

What to do?

Oh, right...kill it. Kill the inconvenient child resulting from sexual indescretions. And because we all know that killing is wrong, it was easier to redefine that embryo, that fetus, that little boy or girl as a "mass of tissue" and depersonalize it, because without depersonalization, that bond happens...that incredible, mystical bond between mother and the baby growing and forming within her, in her own likeness. There is power there, people. Real power.

But I guess murder is easier than power.

And our society keeps telling us that it's not a baby, but a mass of tissue. And it's not murder, because murder involves a human being--and this is just a mass of cells, something like cancer.

And the deception goes on.

Now there's embryonic research and cloning. Now people, living people who developed from the meeting of a sperm and an ova, have begun taking other ovum and other sperm, and creating life in petrie dishes and test tubes. In the beginning, they were creating many of these little lives and using something like a turkey baster to "implant" the embryos into the wombs of women struggling to have children. Ironically, those women killed more children than they could ever have had in life, and many times, it was a failure and the embryo did not implant. So the lives lost were for nothing. Nothing at all.

The "doctors" knew that the lives were being lost, but I'm not sure the women and men choosing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) had any idea. When it comes to "reproductive rights", the medical community is amazingly close-lipped with regard to what is really happening.

Then things move cloning, and now, some joker in Europe (Britain?) has declared that the "contents of the womb" which are barbarically scraped out in pieces is indeed a baby, just as we pro-lifers have always announced loudly and repetitively. He agrees with us. But in the next breath, he says that, if we are going to kill a baby in the womb, why not after birth if the baby is "defective" in some way? Why not indeed?

Let's go back to Plato's "Utopia", where he suggested that children who were not up to par should be killed at birth, because there was no room in his vision of a perfect society for those who could not, for some reason, support themselves.

Well, my brothers and sisters in Christ, we are living in Plato's Utopia. How do you like it?

We are killing unborn children, just for the crime of being conceived, contrary to our convenience. We are, with a large margin of error, identifying genetic illnesses in the womb, and encouraging parents to kill the child and try again for something perfect, as though the womb were a department store and the mother a machine! We are cloning animals and ourselves, we are combining animal and human DNA, all in defiance of God.

Life is not a toy. It is not a mistake. It is not defective. Never. Period.

I used to work with the disabled, ranging from the severely disabled who could not care for themselves in any way, to higly functioning people who just needed some supervision. Some of those people were like that from birth, and some suffered traumatic brain injuries which left them shattered and unable to go about their lives as they had before.

In one location, I remember reading the charts, and in every single one, there was a DNA (Do Not Rescuisitate) order--Every. Single. One. This defies statistics, and it nagged at me. Were all of these lives seen as "not worth saving"? That's what it said to me. Was it an institutional requirement that they have a DNA order on file?

I will never forget the joy in the charges' eyes when I cared for them, or the simple things that gave them great pleasure--things you and I take for granted. They were grateful for everything. Their small successes were worth, in their eyes, far more than our large successes.

I would argue, therefore, that the measure in any society is how we treat those who are vulnerable, how we value them, and what we are willing to learn from them. Their lives are not in vain; I am still coming to realize lessons these beautiful "defective" people taught me during the months I spent in their presence. I still remember many of my clients with great affection, realizing that my life is better for having known them, for having looked into their eyes, for having recognized their souls.

We live in a dangerous world...for if we think that it's ok to kill a normal child, then it must be ok to kill one who is imperfect in our eyes, thus it is ok to kill someone who is older and maybe cannot speak for him or herself.

People, I am the voice for those dear people who cannot speak. I am the voice for those who are imperfect in some way. I am the voice for those who are being deemed "useless" in this world that some are trying to turn into Plato's Utopia.

And I stand here with the armor of God, for I am His daughter, I am in his image, my imperfections and all, and if you want to kill all of those innocent souls, then you'd best kill me and all those who stand with me first, for I would rather be dead than to live in the "Utopia" that this world is headed for. I would rather be dead than to acquiesce to the barbaric practices being placed on ballots and taking place every single day. I would rather die then let another soul be lost to such a demonic agenda.

Each child that dies through abortion is God's own son or daughter. Each embryo killed via the thin veneer of "research" is a son or a daughter of God. Each soul born into an "imperfect" body is a son or a daughter of God.

Each one of us is a son or a daughter of God, whether we deny that reality or embrace it. I am a defective daughter of God, born of defective parents who were told to kill my brother and I only because of their own "defects", not ours. Thus, I am a voice for the defective, and I ask that you all join me in your own defects, and realize that if you do not, then you may be next. You may be the next target of this culture of death, or perhaps your son or daughter, or your mother or father.

Will you remain silent while those you love are slaughtered? No? Then why remain silent now?

Plato's Utopia is really another word for "Hell"--it might have a pretty face, but then again, so does the predatory spider have a pretty web, so much the better to ensnare.

Show me a world without those who are "imperfect", and I will show you a world which has forsaken its very soul.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Mission Accomplished!

No, I'm not referring to the elections. I tend to think that we're entering a "Brave New World". Huxley fans will understand.

Tonight I gave my talk to the RCIA class on the subject matter concerning the 10 Commandments and Catholic Social Doctrine. It went well. Upon arrival at the church, I went immediately to the Adoration Chapel to pray an offer my work to Jesus, to offer him my voice, and to ask that he speak through me and through my weakness. I did not feel could I? The topic is far too large.

In the beginning, therefore, I gave my disclaimer: "Should anything I say contradict what is in this book (held up the Catechism), then disregard what I say and pay attention to what's official and true." In a nutshell.

I continued to hit on human dignity, that we are all created in the image and likeness of God and we are ALL God's children. I discussed embryonic stem cell research as an affront to human dignity and explained the basic human physiology which dictates that a child, not anything else, will arise out of those cells...but for the fact that they are being created only to be batteries. I discussed abortion and mentioned contraception, and said a little about the death penalty and how frequent it seems to be becoming. I discussed the family as the foundation of society, but didn't get into the Theology of the Body language...that would have been too deep for this particular talk. I discussed the interrelatedness of the individual, the family, and the larger community we all make up. I discussed how the "poor and vulnerable" doesn't only refer to the economically poor, and that those of us who were given much have a corresponding duty to give what we have in support of those who don't have enough. I discussed human cloning and the idea going back to Plato's "Utopia" which is resurfacing in Europe that since we've decided abortion is ok, then it must be all right to take it a step further and kill children who may be disabled in some way. I discussed how we are our brother's and sister's keepers, and this doesn't just apply to the clique of Americans, but to our larger world, and we have seen the entire world respond to tragedies before...because it's something we know is right.

Whew! Now that I look at that summary, I am really exhausted...because I said a lot more than that, and it all came out of the Catechism and the Bible. And other sources and summaries to explain the Catechism and the Bible.

I was able to relate the teachings to the Commandments and help everyone understand that the wealth of information I was passing on was a very very general overview, and really tried to drive home the point that the measure of any insitution, whether family, work, political, religions, is whether that institution affirms life or reduces it to a manufactured process.

When I began, I figured I'd speak for less than the time allotted. It ended up going longer, but still within the time. I finshed with the recent letter from Archbishop Chaput, which was an incredible summary of Catholic Social Teaching.

Thank you, everyone who prayed for this project and provided advice and resources. Thank you St. Charles Borromeo, St. Jude, St. Peter, St. Paul, St. John, St. Anthony, and Blessed Fulton Sheen...and all Glory to God!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Voting for LIFE

It has been said that we get the leaders we deserve. It has also been said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to be beat up by it--or killed by it.

I would suggest that those who do not see the writing on the wall can bend over and kiss their rear ends goodbye, because that's what's happening in our culture.

Folks, this is a culture of death, and the apathetic majority are so wrapped up in the lie and dictatorship of relativism that they can't sort out one coined phrase from the other. They are glassy-eyed staring zombies, their ability to think critically short-circuited by the propaganda perpetuated by detractive politicians and their lackeys.

People are saying they won't vote because of all the negative ads. Don't you realize that's what they (the politicians) want? They don't want us to, that would be dangerous. Because if we, the American public, suddenly wakes up to what's going on, then we'll vote not only with our hands, with our pens, and in the polls, but we'll vote with our feet.

I have been preparing a talk this week on Catholic Social teaching, and in reading this information, I have come to realize that it belongs out there NOW, not on Wednesday after the votes have been counted and the winners declared.

People, make no mistake...everything you vote on must have a foundation of life...does this affirm life...or does it reduce life to a manufactured process?

It is with great dismay that I watch the coming elections, for I fear that the great apathy of our country will give us the leadership we deserve, and in the process, underscore the death so many are crying for. People don't understand "proportionate reasons", they don't understand that the only reason they have a right to vote is because they have LIFE, and they are using this gift to vote for death in the form of same-sex marriage, abortion, and embryonic stem cell research.

I cannot underscore this enough: The measure of any society is within that society's affirmation of life...or their reduction of life to a dish named Petrie in a manufacturing process worthy only of Hitler's labs in the 9th circle of Hell.

In this country, life has been relegated to a "choice" to get rid of a bit of tissue. It has been relegated to labs that "create" life and then genetically pick and choose, then use something like a turkey baster to "implant" that life while several of those lives are lost in the process when they leak out or are not implanted.

Embryonic stem cell research..quite the hot-button issue. It is a pathology which has no life in it, and rather, treats life like a battery. Think of the movie, "Matrix", in which human beings were placed in fluid-filled coccoons, attached to complicated machines and used as batteries to power a machine-dominated "society". Compare embryonic stem cell research...they implant an egg with a sperm, which by the way, is what determines the gender of the embryo they have now created. Those foundational cells, those miraculous twines of DNA, already have a pattern of life, a determined gender, determined personality, and a very complicated pattern of replication which results only in a human fetus, which is viable at 20 weeks.

Embryonic stem cell research demands that, in order to "harvest" the stem cells for their money-mongering, name-dropping mad-laboratory experiments, that the new life must die. They literally suck the life of that baby into a needle in order to create tumor-infested failures, and they in turn take this information and tell us that the results are "promising". There has NEVER been any promising results from embryonic stem cell research.

They take advantage of suffering, ill-informed souls such as Michael J. Fox and use them to exploit this damning Nazi-type of experimentation, filling the ears of the ignorant with sweet nothings while sending the souls of the unborn back to God...which in turn will affect our final Judgment.

In essence, these "scientists", these "politicians" are pissing on our collective legs and telling us it's raining.

If we want bologna, we'll go to Germany and make a sandwich.

If we want truth, we'll demand it....and now is the time.

The reality is that this society has no respect for many babies are killed because no one wants to "push" their values? How many people are laboring under the idea that killing their child is the only "choice?" How many women are suffering the effects of poisonous chemicals, reslting in breast cancer, cervical cancer, and STD's, all because society dictates that it's healthy to have sex...and lots of it, with as many people as possible? Not the ones who are dying...or dead...funny how the dead can't speak to us and impart the truths of their lives and their deaths.

How many embryos, that is, children, babies, with an actual gender determined once that "conception" occurs, even in a petrie dish, have to be used as batteries to power a machine designed by the devil and perpetuated by the ignorant?

How long are we going to acquiesce to the smoke being blown up our asses and call it "sunshine"?

There is no sunshine in our political system unless we stand up and demand that life be respected, that life be affirmed, and use this as the ultimate test as to whether someone is worthy of office.

Now go out there and VOTE for LIFE!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Dude! I'm gettin' a DELL!

As you know, I am preparing to go to Grad school starting in January. No, I haven't recieved my acceptance yet, but it should be forthcomimg. And in any case, in the event that they rejected me, I'd still have to get a new computer.

I am currently operating off of a rebuilt Dell Inspiron 3800 laptop. A year ago it fried and my brother took it, wiped out the hard drive and reinstalled it for me, also reconfigured all my firewalls and security systems.

You see, my brother is like a corporate "Geek Squad"--he gets paid do do these things, and his company bills the customers around $150 an hour for his time. So over the last week or so, he's been configuring a new system for me, to include a printer and even a desk.

We just exchanged a few phone calls, e-mails and the like, and not only am I not buying the most high-end system, nor the bargain basement, but I'm getting a good system, including a printer, for less than $1000, with many options to upgrade later. This should be good, he thinks, for many years. And the good Lord knows that it's better to buy a computer when one is working full time as opposed to waiting until I am a starving student. I should be able to pay it off before I start school at the end of January.

Dude, I'm gettin a DELL!

So even if this grad school thing doesn't pan out, at least I can still be a writer, and boy howdy, I need a good computer/printer/workspace for that endeavor, because I intended it to be my life's work.

Or would you all suggest that I not quit my day job?

In any case, I never thought I would say this, but thank God for geeky brothers! I always knew he was a geek, but I never realized, growing up, that this quality would be so useful.

My brother is going to get a really nice bottle of wine out of this, and likely a nice dinner because he's going to come over and set it up for me, too.

Prep for RCIA this week- Prayers needed!

A few weeks ago I posted my consternation at what promised to be a difficult task...presenting the catechesis on the 10 Commandments and Catholic Social teaching to my RCIA class. It is my first attemp as a catechist, and I really do think I'm in over my head.

But I have entrusted this endeavor to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and something is finally beginning to come together. Still, there is much I have yet to do and I'm trying to make my outline this weekend.

Please keep this project of mine in your prayers, and pray that I will be presenting what the Lord would have this group of people learn. I'm doing this for Him and admittedly, I'm not at all confident in my ability to carry this off.

Friday, November 03, 2006

"You have to Suffer for What You Love"

Lately I've been thinking a lot about martyrdom. It's such an abused word, often used in secular culture to refer to a whiner. Or used in derision in reference to the terrorists who chose to murder thousands of people in the name of "Allah". The terrorists use the word themselves, calling the men who flew planes into buildings "martyrs" for their act of mass murder. It's no wonder that this word has taken on such a bad connotation in popular culture. No one wants to be a "martyr" because to be so is a bad thing all around.

When we Catholics use the word in connection with the Saints and in reference to our history, we understand it clearly...we understand that "martyrdom" is the horrible death or tortures suffered by Christians who willingly submitted and left this world by spilling their blood in union with the suffering of Jesus Christ, while praying for the souls of those who have passed the sentence. We know that the blood of martyrs were the seeds of the Church, and this week, we honored the martyrs and all the other Saints, and we thank them for their witness, their sanctity, and their willingness to spill their blood so that the Church may have continued life.

Yet, all of us, in the back of our minds, think to ourselves, "I could never do anything like that. I could not suffer like that."

I would suggest that maybe we should all reconsider the concept of martyrdom through the eyes of faith, and take another look at what it really means.

This last summer, I attended a conference during which I had the opportunity to hear a wonderful talk given by Mother Assumpta of the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. She repeated a couple times throughout her talk, "You have to suffer for what you love."

I wrote it down because it struck me, knocked me over, and continued to resonate. Yet I couldn't put my finger on what it WAS about that line, so over the last several months my mind has continued to return to her words, over and over again, turning them over, savoring them, then letting them rest on my heart.

Today, though, I was suddenly stricken by the deep meaning of Mother Assumpta's words. A couple weeks ago I wrote about the suffering brought about by love; without love, there is no suffering. Without love, there is no grief, no meaning, no martyrdom.

We have all heard the stories of martyred saints, and have often shuddered in repressed terror or revulsion at the thought of their agonizing sufferings. My Confirmation saint was St. Christina--there were several, but I chose St. Christina the Astonishing, specifically. The legends surrounding her spoke of the tortures she endured; she proclaimed the Gospel, and was rewarded via the viscious removal of her tongue. She continued to preach more clearly and eloquently than before. They cut out her eyes, but through God's grace, she could see more clearly than anyone else. The tortures went on, and I think they finally burned her alive, still proclaiming the Gospel message with the tongue she no longer had.

St. Bartholomew was flayed alive. St. Peter was crucified upside down. St. Stephen, the first martyr, was stoned to death. Have you ever considered such a death? Slow, pelting...let your imagination run and offer your heartache to Jesus.

St. Jeanne d'Arc was burned at the stake and called a heretic.

I have considered the sacrifices made by these martyrs and those suffered by thousands of Christians, those average, everyday lay people torn apart by lions and tigers in public arenas in ancient Rome. I have considered their bravery, and I have likewise considered the actions of some of those eventual saints who were offered the cup of martyrdom, over and over again, some of which refused, rejected Jesus, ran away...then kept returning, trying again only to finally be tortured and killed, finally able to remain strong with Jesus as they breathed their last. Even they, in my consideration, are likely much stronger than I would ever be. I'm not at all certain that I would be strong enough to endure the described agonies, nor would I be brave enough to try again. I would be a miserable Christian. Or should I work more on placing trust in God's grace?

I have often asked myself, "Could I really be so willing to suffer so harshly for Jesus Christ?"

I've always thought not. But today, I realized that God's grace is always sufficient, for we are all weak, poor, fragile and lowly human beings, so within our greatest weakness, the Lord displays His strength.

Back in 1995 I was in Law Enforcement Skills training, a 10 week summer program which focused on the physical element of my overall 4 year degree. It was like boot camp for future cops. And it was run by an ex-Green Beret who believed it was his duty to force us to make friends with pain. The other instructors, many of them ex-military as well, were completely on board with this idea, and when we were approaching the most dreaded event, dreaded by many, they emphasized that they wanted to be sure we got our money's worth in that training.

What am I referring to? Tear gas, CS gas, and pepper spray.

As we approached the date of this particular exercise, and then sat through the pre-instruction on the morning of, I think I wore my dread on my sleeve. I wasn't sure I'd make it. I knew what it was about, and as we sat in class that morning studying it, learning how to "assist" our partners through their experiences with the various tortures, my heart was in my throat. I couldn't even eat my lunch that day. It was only so much sawdust. I was terrified that I would not be able to withstand the pain, or that I would run away. I'm not sure which idea frightened me more...cowardace or pain.

But I knew that if I was going to be a cop, I had to swallow my fear and go through with it. After all, others had done so...I must, as well. The rewards were greater that the temporary pain, no matter how unbearable.

The first was tear gas, which reacts with any moisture on your body and your mucous membranes. It causes your eyes to tear, your nose to run, and if it's a hot day, any areas with sweat on them will cause a burning sensation. You might swear you were burning alive. Our instructors made sure that we all got a good "whiff" of the stuff...we were not allowed to leave the gas chamber until they saw smoke go into our noses and out our mouths. No cheating allowed.

The next torture was CS gas...and it was a step higher on the scale of extreme discomfort. Same routine, but this stuff packed a punch. I remember that my skin was burning for the fourth time that day for it was a hot day, hotter in the gas chamber, and I was near the end of the of the last to suffer. I remember removing my mask, breathing in deeply as instructed, thinking that maybe it wouldn't be so bad, exhaled...took one step out the door and doubled over, gasping for air. My eyes were running and I won't describe the other physical manifestations of the chemical. I was suddenly grateful that I hadn't been able to eat lunch. My partner had to drag me away from the chamber as I gasped for air, stumbling because I couldn't stand and I couldn't walk.

The last torture was the worst. Pepper spray. As before, we had partners...girls with girls, guys with guys. Luckily my unit had even numbers. As it had been all day, my partner went first...we'd had to draw straws, and she "won". I wanted to get it over with just as badly, because watching someone else suffer somehow made the anticipation that much worse. I was in the last group. Consider what that does to one's psyche.

The group lined up at one end of the gym. At the other end of the gym were hung 2 dummies. The objective was to be sprayed, then get down to the end, without assistance, and strike the dummy, which was a simulated attacker. Only one blow was necessary. The exercise was all about understanding the pain and the loss of an important sense, and working within it, building survival instinct.

One by one, slowly, I watched all these big, tough guys being hit in the eyes with the pepper spray, I watched them clutch their hands to their faces, scream in pain and double over before wandering down to the dummies and on to the showers, their final relief from all of it. Throughout all of it, my dread continued to build.

I assisted my partner through it, got her into the shower room and turned on the water, where I directed her eyes into the stream. She commented that if she were given the choice between suffering that or childbirth again, she would choose childbirth. (Incidentally, the thought of that experience has always terrified me beyond words). Her comments did not help me try to mentally prepare for this.

Next door in the guy's locker room, we could hear them all screaming and pounding on the walls. Oddly, the women's room was far quieter...there was no pounding, only urgent calls to "Hurry up! Turn on the water!" with the occasional word of profanity.

Finally, it was my turn for this final test. I remember standing there as directed: hands behind my back, clutching the baton. Standing on my tip-toes. Eyes wide open, unblinking. Waiting. The pepper spray being used was orange, so we could all see it coming. They had warned us that if we closed our eyes and tried to fake it, they would take us down, sit on us, and spray us using force if necessary. No cheating. No mercy. No relief. Take it and deal with it. Go voluntarily or we will make it a thousand times worse.

So I stood, watching that orange arc of chemical come towards my precious eyes, willing mightily that I would not blink. I would not be taken down by force...I must go willingly into this experience. I didn't even breathe. I tried not to think of all the big tough men screaming in pain when they were hit.

The instructor somehow nailed my right eye directly, glanced my left and sprayed my left ear. He could see that I could still open my left eye and yelled at me to stop and look at him. Obediently I did so...and watched that arc coming at me again. You will never know what it cost me to stand there and watch again, this time knowing what was coming. Already in agony, wanting to scream and double over, too.

I remember not screaming. I remember that the agony was horrible...yet somehow I realized that screaming wouldn't deaden the pain. So I only took that baton and slowly made my way down the gym toward the dummy, stopping occasionally to pry my eyelid open, looking blurrily through bits of orange fire. I thought I was close enough, finally, and struck out as hard as I could, only to hear my poor partner cry out in pain (sorry!) and the low chuckle of the instuctor. I swung again...and again...finally hitting the dummy before finally, my partner reached through my agony, took my hand and lead me out of the gym, down the hall, and into the showers.

Oh, that blessed water, washing away that terrible, awful burning! Oh, the glory of sight, the beauty of the wind once I got outside, blowing the rest of the chemical away!

Maybe you're wondering what this has to do with martyrdom? Do I think that the above experience made me a martyr? Indeed not...but today I realized the lesson they taught us that day had more impact than simply to train me for a career I no longer have.

It taught me about pain. It taught me that even though we often think we can't do something, deep within us, God gives us the grace, and He gives us the ability to persevere. I had been terrified of this step, but my strong desire to get through training forced me over this hurdle. Ultimately, I had to sacrifice my fear and experience suffering in order to obtain the final goal.

This is what the martyrs did...but on a much, much, MUCH grander scale. The martyrs knew what they were doing, and they weren't doing it for a degree, for a certification, for accolades, or even experience. What I suffered via chemical force was not suffered out of love, but out of a need to complete a task, and it earned me nothing on the path to Heaven other than some understanding which has struck me 11 years later.

The Holy Martyrs suffered, they willingly called themselves "Christians" for only one thing; for love of God. They were motivated by the love of the cross of Jesus. They suffered, and they died for what they loved...because Jesus Christ had loved them more and by His sacrifice, they knew that their eternal lives were the ultimate goal. In order to get there, they had to die...and they were willing to suffer the most extreme tortures through the knowledge that such a path lead to eternal union with Jesus Christ.

Maybe we are not all called to be martyrs of this sort. We are not all called to be pepper sprayed, either, but that does not diminish the lessons in our everyday sacrifices and sufferings which may ultimately lead us to that final test--that of being willing to die for Jesus Christ.

We all suffer for what we love, and a simple bit of introspection teaches us this. Have you not suffered for your family or for your friends? Mothers? Did you not suffer extremely to bring a new life, a new beloved life into this world? And was it not worth it?

The martyrs knew what so many of us do not understand; suffering is temporary. Suffering is done for love, and alone, they could not have done it. It was God who bore them up and gave them the great gift of being able to die with the name of Jesus Christ, and the prayers for forgiveness of the souls who took their lives, uttered in a final breath. They had to die for what they loved, and it is those things for which we suffer the most that tell us where our priorities and our love truely lies.

You have to suffer for what you love...and if you really love God, you have to be willing to lay it all down for Him, as He laid it all down for us.

God's grace is sufficient, and in our weakness, He is our strength. Should we be called to be martyrs for our faith, all we need to do is to keep our eyes on Jesus and remember that this world is only temporary...but the love of God is eternal.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Litany of the Saints

Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.

Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us...
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, (have mercy on us... etc.)
God the Holy Ghost,
Holy Trinity, one God,
Holy Mary, pray for us....
Holy Mother of God,
Holy Virgin of virgins,
St. Michael,
St. Gabriel,
St. Raphael,
All ye holy Angels and Archangels,
All ye holy orders of blessed Spirits,
St. John the Baptist,
St. Joseph,
All ye holy Patriarchs and Prophets,
St. Peter,
St. Paul,
St. Andrew,
St. James,
St. John,
St. Thomas,
St. James,
St. Philip,
St. Bartholomew,
St. Matthew,
St. Simon,
St. Thaddeus,
St. Matthias,
St. Barnabas,
St. Luke,
St. Mark,
All ye holy Apostles and Evangelists,
All ye holy Disciples of the Lord,
All ye holy Innocents,
St. Stephen,
St. Lawrence,
St. Vincent,
SS. Fabian and Sebastian,
SS. John and Paul,
SS. Cosmas and Damian,
SS. Gervase and Protase,
All ye holy Martyrs,
St. Sylvester,
St. Gregory,
St. Ambrose,
St. Augustine,
St. Jerome,
St. Martin,
St. Nicholas,
All ye holy Bishops and Confessors,
All ye holy Doctors,
St. Anthony,
St. Benedict,
St. Bernard,
St. Dominic,
St. Francis,
All ye holy Priests and Levites,
All ye holy Monks and Hermits,
St. Mary Magdalen,
St. Agatha,
St. Lucy,
St. Agnes,
St. Cecilia,
St. Catherine,
St. Anastasia,
All ye holy Virgins and Widows,

All ye holy Saints of God, Make intercession for us.

Be merciful, Spare us, O Lord.

Be merciful, Graciously hear us, O Lord.

From all evil, O Lord, deliver us....
From all sin,
From Thy wrath,
From sudden and unlooked for death,
From the snares of the devil,
From anger, and hatred, and every evil will,
From the spirit of fornication,
From lightning and tempest,
From the scourge of earthquakes,
From plague, famine and war,
From everlasting death,
Through the mystery of Thy holy Incarnation,
Through Thy Coming,
Through Thy Birth,
Through Thy Baptism and holy Fasting,
Through Thy Cross and Passion,
Through Thy Death and Burial,
Through Thy holy Resurrection,
Through Thine admirable Ascension,
Through the coming of the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete.
In the day of judgment.

We sinners, Beseech Thee, hear us.

That Thou wouldst spare us, We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldst pardon us,
That Thou wouldst bring us to true penance,
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to govern and preserve Thy holy Church,
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to preserve our Apostolic Prelate, and all orders of the Church in holy religion,
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to humble the enemies of holy Church,
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to give peace and true concord to Christian kings and princes,
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to grant peace and unity to the whole Christian world,
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to confirm and preserve us in Thy holy service,
That Thou wouldst lift up our minds to heavenly desires,
That Thou wouldst render eternal blessings to all our benefactors,
That Thou wouldst deliver our souls, and the souls of our brethren, relations, and benefactors, from eternal damnation,
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to give and preserve the fruits of the earth,
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to grant eternal rest to all the faithful departed,
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe graciously to hear us,
Son of God,
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.