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Monday, March 31, 2008

Confirmation Name Meme

I think this is more of a free-form kind of Meme, and thanks to Theocoid for the inspiration and origin:

Many of us were Confirmed under the name of another Saint. The practice today is to be Confirmed under our Baptismal name (which is in fact, the most proper) but there are some Confirmed under a Saint's name because their given name is not a Christian name. (Think about it: Autumn, Aureliuste, Destiny, Moon Shadow, Raven, Zephastophanes....).

In my parish, the practice was to be Confirmed under the name of a Saint, and we wore our chosen Saint's name in place of our own for the Sacrament. I actually loved St. Joan of Arc...but that was Mom's, as a rebellious teen, I couldn't possibly take that name.

So I searched and searched through Butler's "Lives of the Saints" and chose a name I liked...and wished I had...and discerned whether I could live with it for life: Christina.

I don't know why I liked the name, but in researching it, I did like my options. Unfortunately, some of the Christina's were legendary. Others just seemed weird. But I couldn't let the name go. I didn't want to go with a popular Saint like St. Therese of Lisieux or some other, because I wasn't popular myself. I was looking for a Saint who was weird, like me. Someone who didn't fit in. Someone completely misunderstood by others. Someone who didn't like others...and didn't care. (I'm not painting a very flattering picture of myself at the time, but it's how I felt and it's how I saw the world.)

At that time in my life I hated the world,I hated my life, and in fact, I wanted to die. I didn't want to even associate with the world. So the more bizarre revelations of the life of St. Christina were in fact, very appealing to me.

My human intentions, admittedly, were not proper nor were they pure. But I think my Saint's own intervention proves the intcession of the Saints. I chose a Saint in a very tumultous time in my life...and she has answered, over and over again.

I remember meeting with the priest at mh parish, and telling him about my Saint. And although I knew the priest well (as I was well involved in my parish) I had a difficult time explaining why I chose this Saint because my choice was so close to my heart and my suffering. I felt that if I revealed too much...well, he would know what we were going through and what I was going through. And maybe he would guess what I was thinking, and most certainly, he'd react to stop me. And I didn't want ANYONE to know my soul, even him. I sat there in his office across from my Pastor, contemplating suicide, revealing my Saint.

I chose St. Christina. There are several St. Christinas, some are legendary, some not. So I chose from the conglomeration, and what I really wanted. I chose from the very heart of my suffering.

St. Christina: Little Christ.

A Saint who suffered and was persecuted for proclaiming the Gospel. She proclaimed Christ...and as punishment, they cut out her tongue. She spoke more eloquently than beofore.

She spoke of her visions of Christ...and they cut out her eyes. She saw more clearly than before.

I think in some legends, they threw her into a furnace and she survived, so they tried to drown her, but she was saved by St. Michael.

There were stories about how she would hide in ovens to escape the odor of sin. The first picture (above) is a depiction of St. Christina the Astonishing. She had apparently died, but during her funeral she sat up in the casket and levitated to the rafters. The priest officiating at her funeral had to talk her into coming down; but she was there because she could not stand the odor of sin and was only seeking to escape it. From that point on, she devoted her life to praying for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, wishing that she herself could finally expire in order to be with her Beloved, Christ, for eternity.

Some of this was clearly legend, so I took from the legends the gist of the meaning, and that was what I used to explain my Saint: No matter what they did to St. Christina, it made her strong. No matter what form of persecution, that attack made her stronger in that very thing they sought to destroy.

I didn't realize at the time that the Saint really chose me, for she took pity on me in the life we were living. And although much of what is known about her is legendary, there is some truth, and it reveals that the woman was a true feminist; outspoken for Christ, uncompromising in truth.

And I see now that there is even a link to the Dominicans...she has been compared to St. Mary Magdalene, very special in the Dominican Order, and it seems she was even taken into a Dominican convent. Even though I should not be surprised...I am. Because I have come to believe, whether Lay or Religious, I have a Dominican Vocation. Thank you, St. Christina.

I'm 33 this year, and chose this Saint when I was only 15 or 16; but she has clearly been a huge part of my life. For it has been in my weaknesses that I have been made strong, through those being drawn to Christ. And it was in what I thought I fled that brought me to the very sources of my fears and the very meaning of my life.

You can read about St. Christina here and here and here.

Whom shall I tag?

Ask not for whom the blog tags, for it tags Thee!

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have Mercy on us and on the whole world!

Today is the Feast of Divine Mercy, and what a wonderful feast, indeed! But it's not a new feast...God has always been merciful. Last semester, I completed a synthetic study on God's Mercy in the Old Testament, and indeed learned that many of the actions taken by God revealed His mercy. So much so that I titled my paper, "God is Revealed Through His Mercy." Just a quick glimpse through a concordance indexes many passages: "The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger and quick to forgive..."

God has NEVER spurned a contrite heart; His wrath was for the unrepentant, and more often than not, the result of God's wrath was to let the consequences of the people's own sins overcome them. Yet if even ONE soul came to Him for forgiveness, God was merciful. And shockingly, the Father's greatest sign of love and mercy was personified in His only Son, Jesus Christ.

You expired, O Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls and an ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us. O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You. Amen

I had class all weekend, so this evening I'm relaxing, letting my mind forget the debacle that was my test this morning, trying to absorb everything I learned since Friday night. And I'm surfing a little.

You may be interested in visiting Fr. Schnippel's blog, for he has a great number of wonderful, insightful posts from the last couple weeks. And today's post inspired this one. He addresses the backsliding that occurrs after a spiritual experience.

There is a natural tendency after going through a traumatic experience to slide back into an old way of life, especially experiences of a profound conversion, a profound spiritual encounter; if it does not ‘take hold’ so to speak, we can find ourselves very easily backsliding into our old way of life, our old existence, and nothing really is changed from before.

(Read the rest...)

In reading that, it made me realize that there's a few ways to consider that backsliding, and something that we all need to look at. Because, let's face it; we all backslide. Every single one of us. If we didn't, there would be no need for Confession. We'd never committ mortal sin. Our veniel sins would become fewer and fewer. And it could be that for you, this is true. But for the vast majority of us, we go to Confession and we NEED to be there either because we're on that backsliding path, that path that is all-too-worn, the path that reveals our high-traffic and rapid slippage down the slope towards the unmentionable place. (Hint: I'm talking about Hell)

The Sacraments are our only handholds. When we've fallen, we can't get up on our own, but we sure can yell...and that's where God's mercy comes in. All we have to do is ask, and His Grace gets us to Confession. We still have to climb up far enough to reach that handhold, but it's one that will never drop us.

When I returned to my faith...REALLY returned, I had great difficulty with Confession. I would cry, I'd shake, I'd go, expecting to be yelled at, although that's never ONCE happened to me. My first Confession after 12 years was incredible and remains one of my most wonderful memories. But it was another 3 years before I was able to go again; I was terrified.

I had this crazy idea that I had to perfect myself. I was still not living a good life, and although I had confessed to the priest at the big confession that I didn't believe I had a firm purpose of amendment because I KNEW I would committ the same sins again and again, he explained that THIS is why we have the sacrament. THIS is why we need God's Mercy, and why He is so willing to offer it.

And as I've heard more than one priest say to the concern that we tend to confess the same sins over and over: "GOOD! YOU'RE NOT INVENTING NEW SINS!"

But I wasn't understanding God's mercy; my concept of the sacrament was, at the time, more legalistic. I had to go to Confession, I believed that my sins were forgiven, however I put so much pressure on myself to suddenly become perfected. It was up to me. I had to have the will to be perfectly good, from that point on.

WRONG! Yes, we are to desire to change, sincerely, (that's what it means to have a "firm purpose of amendment"), but we have to realize that we can't change ourselves. We need God's grace. We need His help, and our firm purpose of amendment means, really, that we're going to cooperate with God's grace and truly intend not to committ the same sins again. And if we do? We keep going back to Jesus, over and over again, and when we do this, we begin to see patterns.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

It took me three years to go to Confession again, and it was my fear that kept me away; my idea that I had to rely on myself, my own will to avoid sin. My fear that I would be yelled at. I think this latter idea came from my home, growing up. My Mom was bipolar and I was literally screamed at for everything. Especially when I'd done something wrong. Even when I was doing something right, there was a good chance Mom would be displeased and glass might shatter at any moment.

So I would shake, I'd stand in line weeping, terrified. That three year confession was just as hard as the twelve year because I built it up so much to be what it was not. While my Big confession was face to face, this time I went behind the screen. And I was just out of control. I couldn't get a single word out. On that occasion, Father (an elderly priest whom I've come to know well since) was a bit gruff with me, but his gruffness helped me to speak and get my emotions under control. He never raised his voice. He was very matter-of-fact. He held me responsible for my sins, and I was ready for that. He did chastize me, but in a way that really checked my contrition; did I mean what I said? I'd confessed some pretty big things. It was in fact much like the renewal of Baptismal vows but more applicable to my specific sins: Do you reject Satan? I do. Do you reject... and on down the line.

I left much calmer, still in tears, feeling very chastized, but also very liberated. I was born again, and I really MEANT my contrition and my penance.


On that day, I realized that my fears were groundless, but I needed to begin to go to Confession frequently. So it was that I began to go every month, or even more often. Sometimes it was days. Over time, I stopped shaking, I stopped crying at the very thought of the sacrament, and I learned to accept God's mercy. Although I'll admit that sometimes this is a challenge; because it seems too easy.

Yet it's not in the Sacrament of Confession that the Lord challenges us the most; it's in the Eucharist, it's in our daily lives. He is most gentle with us when we admit our sins and our failings, for He wants to encourage our humility and our willingness to trust Him and come to Him for healing and forgiveness. Our Lord's heart is warmed with Divine Love and Compassion when we so willingly come to him.

It is when we sin and flee Him that we hurt Him the most. It is when we sin and refuse to look upon his wounds, the very wounds that restore us, that He is most pained, and His pain is on our behalf. Because by fleeing, or refusing to repent, we are denying His wounds and the reasons for them.

So it has been that I have gotten used to frequent Confessions, and I've begun to see patterns of behavior, patterns of sin, all the time. During Lent, or maybe just before, I realized that every time God blesses me in some major way, I backslide. I fall into sin or into an old pattern of behavior, and that sin leads me to Confession, all too often by necessity versus devotion. And even after I recognized that pattern, it continued to happen. Over and over again, I'd be in the chapel, praying, making my examination of conscience before Confession, and berating myself for offending God so much after He had just been so good to me.

In prayer, a few things have come to me with regard to this pattern and the sins themselves, but the biggest revelation was God's mercy; why we need to accept it. We have to learn to see ourselves, honestly, through God's eyes. St. Paul stated (in Romans, I think) that he does what he does not want to do; it's a battle of the flesh and the spirit. We are all in that battle as we truly seek God, but give in to our fallen natures, doing what we really don't want to do, falling. But we have to get up and keep going, because even if we don't know why we continue in this pattern, God does, and He saw the pattern long before we did. His response is not condemnation; it is a response of compassion. He does not excuse our sin, but rather, holds us accountable but is willing to forgive us as many times as we fall. Because as long as we're willing to admit that we can't stand on our own, and that we have offended Him, He will take us back, over and over.

It's not about falling; it's about trying, or repenting and converting, even if it's the same thing for 50 years. God knows our weaknesses, and He Himself bore them on his Cross. The Father sees us all through the wounds of Christ, through the holes in His hands and feet, through the blood and water gushing from His side.

God requires only one thing of us; willingness to admit that we are wrong and come to Him with our soggy, muddy souls. He knows that He will clean us up and send us toddling away encompassed in Divine Love...and tomorrow we'll be even muddier and soggier than we were today. And that we'll get up again and come to Him, crying, and He'll wipe away our tears, clean us up again, and send us back out into the world. Proud of us. Because we belong to Him, we know who He is, and that no matter what we do, He will be there. And eventually, maybe, we'll be able to go a little further before we have to come back to be healed.

Jesus, I trust in thee!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Epic Story of the Early Church - The Heretics


Dear readers, congratulations, you are helping me to study tonight. It's a marathon weekend, It's been a marathon week. I didn't get enough done last week when I was off for the Holy Days, so here I am, cramming for tomorrow's test. My test from last night went decently...I got 4 wrong, so an 84%, which is fine because I got 100% on the my standing remains good in that class. (And 3 of those 4 questions were dumb answers, one of which I changed and got wrong. The other of which I changed...and got right.) I don't know how I did on the take-home test I emailed in on Thursday.

But tomorrow's test promises to be brutal because I can't separate the heresies, which are all about seperating the Trinity. So, dear, dear readers, thank you in advance for allowing me to fool myself psychologically by pretending to blog when I'm really studying for tomorrow's test. As a disclaimer, all that is about to be posted is not's just to help me get this info into my head and sort out the various heresies that are similar.


I have a dream...I want to write a novel on the Early Church, from Acts onward, revealing the truth of Christianity in story form...and then turn it into a screenplay. This movie would be EPIC. And you'll see why in a moment.

I'm starting in here with the Trinitarian Heresies of Sabellius, Arius, Euchtyches, and Nestorius. Our heroes are the Cappodocian Fathers (St. Gregory of Nazienzen, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Basil), St. Athanasius, St. Flavian (martyred, St. Augustine, St. Cyril and Pope Celestine.


Sabellius inagurated "modalism", which saw God as 3 modes: Creation, Redemption, and Santification. He did not distinguish between the PERSON of Christ from the PERSONS of the Father and the Holy Spirit. This heresy would mean that God the Father suffered and died on the Cross, which caused this sect to be called Patripassians (Passion of the Father). Church Fathers Dionysius the patriarch of Alexandria, and Pope St. Dionysius laid the smackdown on Sabellianism which condemned both it and Arianism.

Arius fell into a common error of trying to rationalize the incomprehendable; the Mystery of the Trinity. Through his fault of pride, he took his rationalization and decided that Jesus had no divinity of his own, he was not equal or consubstantial with the Father, he did not have equal glory, and in fact, placed Jesus as a lesser divinity. That meant that his doctrine was a sort of polytheism. Arius held that Jesus was foreign in substance to the Father, was not co-eternal, God was not a trinity, and the Son was adopted; he in fact, was not impeccable and did not comprehend the Father.

In the early Church, Constantine was an important figure, as he legalized the religion, and even called a council. Unfortunately, although he started out to do some good things, he fell for Arius's little idea we like to call "heresy" and became an Arian. Oh, the betrayal!

It was unfortunate, but this heresy was a terrible one that insipidly crept throughout the Church and corrupted many. Indeed, our Church Fathers were quite alarmed at the souls being lost through this demonic treat, and several of them stepped in to combat the dangerous ideology.

The Council of Nicea formulated the Nicene creed, declaring that Christ was "consubstantial" (homo-ousious) with the Father, and sharing in the same divine nature. At this council, the sympathizers of Arius postured and acquiesced, choosing to define the terms according to their own chosen understanding; giving a pretense at obedience and agreement while working out their treachery in dark corners. Sadly, Arianism continued to deprive many souls of the Grace of God.

St. Athanasius, in his Discourse against the Arians revealed that the Arian doctrine implies that before the "creation" of the Word, God would have been deprived of being Wisdom, Word, and Life, for Christ is the Word and Wisdom of the Father and the Life. "For let him understand well who dares to say, 'Once the Son was not', that he is saying, 'Once Wisdom was not", and 'Word was not,' and 'Life was not.'"

The Council of Constantinople
in 381 completed the statement of the Trinitarian doctrine by definining the divinity of the Holy Spirit, and at that point, it was adopted to enlarge the Nicene Creed.

The Council of Rome of 382 confirmed the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is one substance and power with the Father and the Son, and that there is one Divinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and three persons. It also rejected in one fell swoop the heresies of Sabellius, Arius, and Eunomius, by names and by descriptions.

St. Basil, St. Gregory Nazienzen, and St. Gregory of Nyssa (The Cappodocian Fathers) worked out the terminology capable of clearly communicating the orthodox doctrine, properly distinugishing between the natureof essence and the person. Through this, they were able to defend the divinity of the Holy Spirit against the Arians. They defined God as 1 nature in three persons, with no separation in the Godhead. This was infallibly sanctioned in the Council of Constantinople and confirmed by Rome.

(NOTE: in the early Church, there were often not terms readily available to adequately discuss the theological issues they were facing. The fact that terms came into being doesn't deny the existance of the beliefs and doctrines prior to the formal definition of the terms.)

Then came along Apollinaris of Laodicea, who made a serious Christological error closely related to Arianism. His position was that the Logos (Word) inhabited Christ by taking the place of a rational soul. He suggested that Jesus Christ was comprised of Logos and a body, an idea that arose out of inadequate philosophy and rationalism.

The Cappodocian Fathers refuted this heresy by pointing out that, had Christ not had a rational human soul, then He was not really a man and could not redeem our souls. Jesus redeemed what needed to be redeemed, both soul and body in full integrity. "That which he has not assumed, he has not healed." Jesus united Himself to what is common, that being body and soul. Had Jesus not done this...we would not have been redeemed. (Isn't that a horrifying thought?)

Now comes one of my favorite parts of Church History, and one of my favorite scenes in the movie I haven't written yet:

Nestorius denied the unity of the person in Christ and rationalized it to remove it from the Mystery of the Trinity. On Christmas Day, he declared that Mary was not the Mother of God because God had no origin and the Blessed Mother was not the mother of divine nature. His problem was that he was unable (or unwilling) to distinguish between the Person and the Nature of God.

The people in his cathedral did not handle this well, as you can imagine. It would be the same if a Bishop today stood up and declared the same thing. But this heresy and blasphemy was combated in a dramatic way:

On the Feast of the Annunciation in 429, Bishop Proclus opposed Nestorius in his own Cathedral by preaching eloquently on the Theotokos (God-bearer):

The Self-same was in the Father's bosom and in the womb of his mother. He lay in a mother's arms, while He walked upon the wings of the wind. He was adored by angels while He sat at meat with publicans. The Cherubim durst not behold Him, while Pilate condemned Him. The servant smote Him, and creation shuddered. He hung upon the Cross, but He was not absent from the throne of glory; and, while He lay in the tomb, He was sprading out the heavens like a curtain. Oh! What Mytery! I see miracles, and I prolcaim the Godhead. I behold the sufferings, and I deny not hte manhood. What clearer proof could I want that Mary is the Mother of God?"

St. Cyril of Alexandria reacted immediately to the heresy and wrote a Paschal letter to the monks in Egypt, answering Nestorius by pointing out that although the divine nature of God is not capable of suffering, his human nature did so and was, obtained through Mary in order to suffer for us. Additionally, he informed Pope Celestine, who in turn declared the doctrine to be heretical. Pope Celestine gave St. Cyril the authority to carry out the rest of the matter. At the Council in Ephesus, called by St. Cyril in 431, held in one day, approved the 2nd letter of St. Cyril to Nestorius an the 12 Anathemas of Cyril, declaring that the hypostatic union and reaffirming that Mary is the Mother of God.

This is turning into a serious Action Flick:

The heresy Monophysitism declared that Christ was of or from 2 natures, and after the Incarnation, had only 1 nature. Eutyches, an elderly abbott in a monastery in Constantinople, held that Christ was consubstantial with the Father in divinity, but not with us in humanity, which was a denial of Christ's fully human nature. (He was later willing to agree that Christ did have a human nature.) Further, he claimed, through misunderstanding of terms that this was the doctrine of St. Cyril and St. Athanasius (which was not true), and that Jesus was consubstantial with the Father in divinity but not with man in humanity.

His views were brought before a local Council in Constantinople under the Patriarch St. Flavian , and Eutyches was summarily condemned for holding that Christ had 1 Nature instead of 2.

Eutyches appealed to the Pope and obtained the support of the Patriarch of Alexandria, Dioscuros (the successor to St. Cyril). A general council was called in Ephesus in 449, which was described in great detail by Cardinal Newman. He described the zealous monks who supported Monophysitism, those who attended to Dioscros, and armed forces. They broke into the Church upon the call of Dioscorus; Flavian was thrown down and trampled.

St. Flavian died of his injuries three days later. As for the rest, those Bishops that were not trampled (including the Pope's legates) escaped.

Those Bishops who did not escape were forced to sign a blank paper, which afterwards was filled in with condemnations of Flavian. At the end of the proceedings, Dioscorus excommunicated the Pope (yes you read that correctly), and an Emporer issued an edict approving the decision of the Council.

But wait...there's MORE!

Another Council was called in Chalcedon, and 630 Bishops, and the Roman legates (authoritative representatives of the Pope) opened the Council. Dioscorus was charged with having presumed to hold a Council without the authority of the Apostolic See, and for not having the Letter of the Pope read to the Council (which would have been the Tome of St. Leo.) The Tome was read during the Council of Chalcedon and affirmed by the Bishops as being the faith of the Apostles; they declared anyone anathema who did not hold to the faith of the Apostles.

Dioscorus was condemned and dishonorably deprived of his "Episcopal dignity and every sacerdotal ministry." (He was defrocked) Take THAT HERETIC! YEAH!

There was another very similar heresy which continued: Monothelitism. This heresy declared that Christ had one Will and operation after the Incarnation. In reality, we understand that Christ has two wills, human and divine, although his human will was always in harmony with his divine will.


So...although that's not the end of the information for my test, nor is it exactly how I will answer the questions that may arise, doesn't it just whet your appetite to learn about the Early Church Fathers? Can't you just see how awful it was? Wouldn't the real drama of our roots make an incredible movie???

The deception of the heretics, the betrayals, the heartbreak, the murderous intentions, the disobeience, the political posturing...

God's Providence

I don't know why I'm always praying and hoping and waiting and worrying, and then, when God answers...I'm always completely shocked.

As you may recall, some of us are working on maybe starting a chaper of Lay Dominicans, and so I did some research, I contacted some local Sisters (wonderful, wonderful Nashville Dominicans), and did everything else I could think of to do. And then I was at a dead end, and so decided to let God work. And I prayed the Litany of Dominican Saints, which is a powerful prayer.

Nothing has happened for over a month, and a part of me has been wondering if it's all in vain...were we really doing the right thing? But of course, patience is necessary.

Then I went to class last night, and learned that while I've been resting and studying and preparing for Holy Week, God has been working.

It seems that there are two Dominican priests coming to our area from another country. They have been requested by a local institution, it has been approved by the Archbishop...and now our quest to begin this new Chapter goes on.

I'm completely amazed. Completely.

And driving home last night, I couldn't stop thanking God for His providence, His apparent answer to our prayers. They'll even be pretty close to where I live!

Now, the cautionary disclaimer; we don't yet know for certain if it's set in stone, if they are for CERTAIN coming, if they are here, or if it'll be months or more. However, if we can validate this information clearly, then we have another person likely to be interested in forming a chapter, and that person likely knows more. Thus, by the time the priests are in place, all that we can do will be set.

Amazing. Isn't it wonderful how we go about our lives, and in the meantime God is slowly moving things into place. And He knows when we will learn the surprise; and in fact, He plans it that way. I just have a mental image of God standing back, grinning when His surprises are revealed to us.

Please keep this intention in your prayers...even though it all seems that it will really happen, there are many unknowns, such as: what if the priests who are coming have embraced a strange theology? What if they have no interest or are unable to mentor us/direct us as Dominican laity?

So we're not at the end, not even close, but I can't help but see God's hand in this. In everything.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

God Loves You

Tonight I got to do something that is rare for me now; I got to teach. I actually had not looked forward to tonight, but it went well, and in talking to these young teenage girls, I remembered what it was like to be one of them.

It was an awful memory. I looked out on this sea of faces, some engaged, some questioning, some completely disinterested. One of them would barely look at me, and obviously preferred to be somewhere else. She seemed unreachable.

Part of my talk tonight had to do with Saints, and I had some cards I handed out; each chose a Saint from the stack, Saints that I'd hand-picked to go with the lesson. Or maybe the Saints hand-picked themselves for this class.

We discussed them, how they lived their Vocations, their heroism, and what they read caused them to ask questions! These young ladies were FULL of questions...good ones! Others were not so interested, and I remembered...I was one of them. Back then I feigned interest, but I was actually drawing in my notebook. I would not have engaged in the conversation.

Back then, I didn't think God loved me. I didn't know why I existed, I didn't think the world loved me...and I was sitting in classes planning how I was going to die.

This evening I stood in front of that class, answering their questions to the best of my ability, trying to be sure to answer all of them, looking them in the eye, and amazed at how the Saints were drawing some of them out. The girl that seemed unreachable; well, Blessed Kateri Tekawitha got her attention and her respect. That girl left at the end of class with a begrudgning smile.

St. Maria Goretti was another one; her life, death, and her attacker's Sainthood were a complete mystery to them. Why did so many people attend St. Maria Goretti's funeral? How could she know so many people? (Answer: her holiness; it drew people in like a moth to the light. She lived her life in such a way that everyone had a place, and they loved her for it.) How can someone awful (Alessandro) become a Saint? It's inconceivable to them that someone awful can become so beloved and attain such holiness. God's grace.

Our conversation brought in the more sordid details, but handled in a delicate manner. The catechist pointed out that what guys do now, they did then, and St. Maria Goretti stood up to it, rather than sin. And in her last breath, she forgave her attacker.


We discussed their dignity. Tonight, I stood in front of that classroom, and I told those girls that God loves them; they are Daughters of God, they are in this world for a purpose, to be loved by God. They have a mission, a reason for existance, and they were each and every one called out of eternity to live this life, and to be holy. My main message: God loves you, dear daughters.

I don't think the words had as much impact on them as they did on me tonight..and I was the one delivering the message. I remember looking out at these girls, knowing what it was like to be one of them, remembering what I thought of the people who came to teach my classes. It's come full circle.

But it's worse for them than it was for us at the time.

I remember going home, and at night, I'd pull out my Bible and I'd pray the psalms. I'd find whatever fit my mood or my situation, and I'd cry my eyes out, begging God to come to my aid, or even smite my enemies. I begged Him to take me out of this world. And those prayers were never answered.

It wasn't until recently that I really learned about the ancient tradition of praying the psalms, the monastic traditions, the absolute emotionality of the psalms arising out of the ones writing them. I didn't understand back then, but I continued to do it, even as I thought my prayers were not being answered.

And it was tonight that I realized how close God was to me during those awful, awful years; to draw me into the psalms, to pray those ancient words with every ounce of my soul. I didn't think God loved me; but He loved me so much He gave me words I could not have created on my own, He drew me into his very Word, and in doing so, He wept with me.

No one knew my torturous existance, and today, in being in the classroom with those girls, I knew that there was a good chance someone just like me was among them. And that girl needs to know that God loves her, that God has chosen her for something special, and that every breath she takes has meaning.

I don't think my words were meaningful tonight...even as I uttered them, I knew they meant more to me than they could possibly mean to the young women in that room. But it doesn't cheapen the meaning; rather, it tells me that we have to find a way to convince people of God's love in such a way that the message isn't trite. I have a dear friend who has struggled with this very message. She is an adult, she is intelligent, and "knows" that God loves her. But she has had a hard time believing it.

And truth be told, so have I. Hearing "Jesus loves you!" is banal to my ears. It has no meaning; it's a phrase that's repeated through flat eyes, the expression of someone who thinks they have to say this. And fine, it must be said. But it's not believable. To a group of people who aren't sure who they are, it doesn't matter that some Being aloof from them loves them. They haven't learned that they can personally experience that love.

But we have to find a way to convey the message and divorce ourselves from the banality of the message badly delivered. We have to reach out to the teens in such a way that it's not just words, but is a true expression and attribute of God that he personally loves them so much that He died for them on the cross. We have to reach out to the adults who grew up hearing "God loves you" so much that it's become a mantra they use when they practice Yoga with the montly women's group (but have no idea that the God who loves them awaits them in the chapel).

Yes, dear readers, God loves YOU so much...but what will it take for you to really believe it?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Catholic Blog Awards 2008 - WINNERS!

This post is overdue, but I didn't want to post it during Holy Week. It seemed improper. Congratulations to all the nominees and all the winners of this year's awards! The winners can be found here, but note you have to register to see all of the winners and nominees.(which is free).

Congratulations to the infamous Fr. Z. who swept several categories. A huge number of the faithful are clearly partaking in his wisdom, and I see this as a sign of renewal in the Church. (And maybe the beginning of the end of Haugen-Haas and Lifeteen?) Fr. Z. won: Best Apologetic, Best Blog by Clergy/Religious/Seminarian, Best Individual, Best Insider News, Best Overall, Best Political/Social Commentary, Best Written, Most Informative/Insightful, Most Spiritual, and Smartest Catholic blog.

Congratulations to the New Liturgical Movement, who won Best Designed and Best Group Blog.

The Best New Blog was Creative Minority Report , the Best Social/Political Commentary went to American Papist, And Funniest Catholic Blog was granted to Curt Jester who has never lost this particular spot.

Yours Truly was exactly 10th in the "Most Spiritual" category, and I'd like to thank the Academy (ahem...that's YOU, regular commenters and readers!). It was an honor to be nominated in all the categories, and I was honestly shocked. I don't have a sitemeter, so had assumed my readership had fallen off, based on the number of comments on my posts. So either my readers are voting early and often, or my readers are really, really loyal and voted for me at least twice each time. In any case, thank you, dear readers!

I recently pointed out to a couple of fellow bloggers that there are thousands of Catholic blogs...and only a relatively small number were even nominated. Each year, I "discover" new blogs to read, new Catholics contributing to the New Evangelization. This gives me hope for the Church; so often, we find so much to complain about, but when we read firsthand about the faith and knowledge of people who could well be sitting in the pew next to us, well...can I just say that I am edified? You all give me hope, you all encourage me. You all are effecting conversions through your witness.

A huge thanks to the Catholic Blog Awards organizers, most specifically Joshua LeBlanc and Corey Bordelon. And Jeff Miller, who once again designed the award icons, some of which will be also displayed here.

Of all the winners and nominees, I don't know a single one who writes for the purpose of awards; if any of them do, their priorities are sadly misguided. Yet it's nice to be recognized, and it's a great way to strengthen the Catholic community online. Jesus Christ created his Church for a reason, and the internet gives us a chance to bond over states, over countries, over continents, making our Church seem even more connected. I'm grateful for the friends I've "met" via Catholic blogging, and forsee the growth of this technological medium.

God bless you all, and again, Congrats to the winners!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Pilgrims on a Journey

In class earlier this semester, we read part of the Letter to Diognetus, which describes the relationship of the Christian to the world.

They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.

Please read the entire letter, which is shorter than the vast majority of my posts.

I bring this up today because many people became Christians last night at the Easter Vigil, and many Christians became specifically Catholic Christians. And ALL of we Catholics renewed our baptismal promises and affirmed the Creed by which we live.

I fully believe that the Letter to Diognetus should be required reading for every single Catholic. Whenever we are struggling in trying to live our faith in a world that hates us, we should be directed to this letter. Whenever we are faced with a moral dilemma, we should be directed to this letter. The words are ancient, but eternal; they applied to the people then just as they apply to us now. And if the words of the letter don't match the way we live our lives...then we need to take a serious look at whether we are fit to be called Followers of Christ.

For a long time now, I have felt like a fish out of water. I don't seem to belong anywhere. While I realize that it is a privilege to be an American, I have also seen other parts of the world and would likely feel just as honored to be a citizen of those places. (I considered the idea of dual citizenship in Mexico.) And there have also been times that I wanted to flee the borders of my country as I considered our impending leadership...and realized that at least here, we have a voice. But what is a "voice" in a corruptible and corrupted world, one in which the most innocent are silenced in favor of the preferences of a few? This is no place for any of us. But here we are, feeling out of place or not, we have an obligation to live out our faith even if it is contrary to the raging winds of cultural ideology. Especially then.

Some time ago, I heard something on the radio likely discussing this letter, and it made me understand that my sense of restlessness had overtaken me for a reason; this is not my home. I look around my city; it's where I live and I'm comfortable here, but it's not my home. I look around my townhome, for which I struggle to pay every month, and I know that this is not really my home. I watch the News, and realize that, if this is "home" it's completely dysfunctional and I'm an idiot to remain in such a place. But no place else is any different and in fact, most of the world is probably worse.

When I walk into a church though, especially my home parish, I am "home". I remember that feeling, a few years ago, as I knelt to pray before Mass. I remember looking up at the Crucifix and thinking with perfect peace and clarity, "I'm home."

My conversion was real; it had taken a long time, but God brought me Home. Since then, He has expanded my home, giving me a few parishes in which I have become comfortable. The first is my home parish, the second is the parish where my classes are located, and the third is the parish where I work. In each church, I can go and hear the same Word proclaimed, the same Gospel, the same beliefs, the same liturgy. Christ is present. And if I am called for some reason to another parish, I know what to expect and how to worship. It's not necessary to re-learn anything. It's not necessary to debate. I can relax and worship God, no matter where I am. This applies even if I fly across the world and attend Mass in Germany, Spain, Italy, Mexico...everywhere. As St. Ignatius of Antioch proclaimed, along with St. Irenaeus and St. Clement..."There is one Bishop." (paraphrased)

But there's another catch; even though we Catholics are spread throughout the world, and our parishes and every parish is our "home", it is only temporary. We are only leasing the space. We are citizens of another Kingdom, and our call is to make this Kingdom present on Earth, until we are recalled to union with our Creator; our true Home.

It is not enough to simply declare that we believe in Christ and in His Resurrection. It is not enough to attend Mass once per week and give God that hour. We are called to greater things; we are children of God before we are anything else. We belong to Christ before we belong to our parents, siblings, or political machinations.

I have no problem in saying that before I am American, I am Catholic. Before I am Republican or Democratic or Libertarian, I am Catholic. Before I am woman...I am Catholic. All other things are secondary accidentals. Because it isn't my body that saves me, it isn't my political leanings or my earthly citizenship. It is my soul that defines who I am, and my soul cannot be divorced from my humanity; to suggest otherwise is anathema.

All of us need to look at our lives on this day of the Lord's Resurrection, and understand that we, too, are called to death to the world so that we might arise with Christ and embrace the life to which He has called us. We need to recognize that Call above all others, for our duty to God superscedes our duty to Caesar. By God's own command, we are to pay our tributes to Caesar, but when those tributes conflict with our Citizenship of Heaven by virtue of our Baptism, then the choice is clear; Ceasar can ROT. The Glory belongs to God, even if that Glory is our own blood.

We are Citizens of Heaven; we are to behave as such. I leave you with these immortal words, from the Letter referenced above:

As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.

Citizens of Heaven...are you willing to accept these terms?


INDEED He is Risen!

I just arrived home from the Easter Vigil at the parish where I work, and it was a beautiful Mass. Although I wasn't deeply involved with RCIA this year, I assisted with the last class and gave a short talk on how to receive Holy Communion, Eucharistic Miracles, and Saints. And that talk was only incidental, as the DRE had asked me to help out at the Vigil, so I was with the RCIA class a week ago for the rehearsal, which lead up to giving a talk, completely off the cuff. (Amazing how that works.)

My other involvement was with the children and a teenager. Officially I'm supposed to handle RCIC (Rite of Christian Initiation for Children) but as they were only being baptized and will receive other sacraments in upcoming years, the DRE handled their preparation. She is in charge of baptism, but I did assist with a couple things. And there was a teenager I met with a oouple times, discussed some things in the books she was given, but otherwise, she attended the RCIA classes with her Mom, who is on the core team. The girl's Mom was received into the Church either last year or maybe the year before, and is just a real holy woman. She is truly gifted in prayer and wisdom, and had well prepared her daughter for the Sacraments. (And her daughter is just one of those sweet, sweet souls. I think Jesus might be calling her, so please pray for her.)

As Staff, I assisted the group in heading over to the baptismal font, and stood in back, but where I could really see what was going on. And I've found that the theology I've learned, the exegesis of Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth prepared ME to stand there, present, for this Sacrament. Knowing and understanding, realizing the weight of this glorious event.

"My" teenager was also Confirmed tonight and received her First Holy Communion, and you know...I couldn't be prouder. Her mother was seated behind me. (I was in an aisle seat for strategic purposes). The girl was seated in front in between her Godparents. So it was that I was right in the middle of her family, and I could just feel the Grace! And no wonder she is so sweet...all those with her were such holy people. God bless them!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says that the Sacraments are what they signify. They are not just signs, but they are more than signs. What they indicate, they DO to the soul, to the individual. Tonight, all over the world, New Catholics have been born, and all of Heaven and Earth rejoices over this new life, rising with Christ.

Please pray for all these new Catholics, and all those who are considering entrance into the Church.

It's been a difficult Lent for me, and my human weakness was brought to the forefront, where it remains. But God's grace is ever-present, and His grace has carried me through the Triduum, in spite of my propensity to sin. God's love is so abundant, so incredible, so vast...He is ever-present in our lives.

I experienced a miracle this week, during the Triduum. As of now, I'm not willing to share this miracle, and I may never share it (on the blog). Suffice to say that there are a few who know about it, and I am still discerning the significance. Initially I thought I should keep it entirely to myself, but for a few others who might understand the gift. I have revealed this miracle to a few others, and did so today to a good friend. She has seen similar things, and explained that such a miracle is often for the purpose of conversion, as a witness to God's glory.

True miracles don't really reflect upon the person to whom they happen; they point to God. They reveal God's glory. My friend suggested that this miracle should be shared for the purpose of the conversion of others, for that's something she's seen before. I wasn't going to share what happened to me with my family. I'm not really sure why; you would think that I'd go to my family first. But family can be complicated and I tend not to bring anything to them. My friend's words were a wake-up call.

God gives us signs and wonders sometimes, even in this day and age. I have family members in need of conversion, so tomorrow I will reveal this to them. Please keep them in your prayers; God has a plan, and we should never miss an opportunity to bear witness to His Glory in our lives, especially when other souls are on the line.

If even a single soul comes to Christ, if a single prodigal comes home, all of Heaven rejoices, and so do we all.

O necessary fault of Adam, that has given us so great a Redeemer!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Good Friday - Holy Saturday

I watched the Passion of the Christ last night, and this time I paid close attenion to Peter's denials and the treachery of Judas.

I saw myself reflected in both of them. Because I am treacherous in my attachment to sin, and I outright deny Christ, whom I promise repeatedly to serve. I have the adulterous, divided heart described in the book of Hosea.

But it was one particular scene that brought me to tears last night; the scene in which Judas strings up the rope and hangs himself violently.

He spent all that time with Jesus, the Son of God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity...and he didn't get it. He didn't understand. He hadn't been able to penetrate the mystery. He'd watched Jesus restore sight, heal the lame, and cast out demons. He watched all of this, apparently from afar.

Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him. He knew all about it. And still, he allowed it in order to save us all. And He loved Judas whom He claimed as one of His Own.

Indeed, Judas betrayed Christ, and became convicted by his own conscience. His eyes were opened and he realized how far he had fallen, what he had done.

Judas made his final choice; he chose to die rather than to be reconciled. He didn't understad it. He probably knew the scriptures well, and knew that over and over, they say that God does not spurn a contrite heart...ever. Never in the history of the Old Testament does God miss an opportunity for mercy. No matter what that person had done, or how many times; God always forgave.

God's justice was for the unrepentant.

Clearly, Judas was repentant, for he saw what he had done to his Lord. But instead of being willing to ask for mercy, he fled, and he chose to die by his own hand.

Jesus would have forgiven Judas. If Judas had chosen to follow Him, even to the cross, he would have seen the repentance, and he would have forgiven Judas in that very moment.

He would have forgiven the single most treacherous betrayal in the history of mankind...and His Mercy was rejected.

What a lesson for us all. What a lesson for me.

Here I sit, the blood of Christ on my own hands, and still, He will forgive me. Over and over again, no matter what act of betrayal I choose.

Today is Holy Saturday, and as our Beloved Savior symbolically sleeps in the tomb and searches the depths of Sheol for our first parents, we prepare our hearts and souls for the joy that arises out of such silent grief.

This is not the end; despair is not a word that belongs to Christianity. When the sun sets tonight, a new light will blaze forth, and we will all rejoice for our Savior who died so horribly in order to set us free.

O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem!


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Holy Thursday

Stay with me
Remain with me
Watch, and pray....

Tonight, the Blessed Sacrament has been carried to the Altar of Repose, and all the tabernacles in the world stand open and empty. We are invited to remain with Jesus, praying with Him until Midnight, offering Him consolation in His sorrow for our betrayal.

It is this very night that we commemorate the beginning of His Passion; the Hour is at hand. It is this night that Jesus' agony was so intense that his sweat was as blood, and He prayed from the depths of this terrible suffering.

"My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."

Jesus was perfectly resigned to the will of the Father; and just as the Fall took place in a garden, so our Redemption begins in the same way. And Jesus invites us into His Passion, to stay with Him, to pray with Him, to watch, and wait...for His hour is at hand.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wednesday of Holy Week

Today is the final day of Lent; the season takes us to today, and tomorrow begins the holiest, most sacred days of our entire year: the Triduum.

As I look back upon Lent this year, if I look with human eyes, I see a dismal failure. I see a woman who cannot keep her promises, who has not withstood temptation and frequently has not even TRIED to withstand temptation. I see a woman ready and willing to betray Christ for thirty pieces of silver, maybe less. Willing to betray Him for the cost of a slave in order to feed her own worldy desires.

On the other hand, if I have the courage to consider Lent with God's eyes, while I see the weakness and the willful obstinance, I also see a child in need. I see grace. I see a woman ready and willing to suffer for and with Christ, something that has been put to the test. And found lacking in many ways,'s a start. The seeds have been planted.

No one comes out of storms unscathed.

We all have to question who we are, and during Lent, we prepare our hearts to face ourselves in the mirror that is Holy Week and most especially, the Triduum. Lent calls us to sacrifice, to suffer a little, to give of ourselves, and to draw closer to God. Unless we know our weaknesses, we cannot bring them to Jesus, and if we are unwilling to feel our wounds, the Divine Physician cannot help us. Some of us need only a hug and reassurance...others need only a band-aid. Still others need stitches and major interventions; but if we are obstinate, we cannot receive this loving treatment. Jesus cannot heal us if we are unwilling to admit that we are broken and fearful.

Each Lent, we make a choice...draw closer to God and admit our failings, or draw away from the source of true happiness? We cannot experience the Resurrection unless we first experience death. There is no Easter Sunday without a Good Friday.

Palm Sunday brings us in contact with a mirror, and gives us a few days to recover. Then we enter Holy Thursday where we see the joy of the institution of the Priesthood and the Holy Eucharist, which leaves us in mourning as the presence of Christ is reposed to symbolize His acceptance of death and burial. We are invited to adore the Blessed Sacrament, covered, waiting and watching with Him, and with the Apostles. Tabernacles are left open, abandoned, the sanctuary flame extinguished. Every other day of the year, we enter the Church and genuflect to Jesus Christ, our King and Savior present in the tabernacle. But on Good Friday, we are greeted by an empty tabernacle, for this is the day Christ died. If you've noticed, the Church has an entirely different feel; Christ is not there. Thus, we do not genuflect, but silently enter the pew and wait.

Good Friday should be excruciatingly painful.

I still remember the first Lent of the beginnig of my reversion. At the time, I was attending a small parish, which took great liberties with the Liturgy. The Good Friday liturgy was not well attended; more crowded than the Sunday Mass that normally contained me, but still, the "crowd" was more sparse than at the average Catholic Church.

I remember walking forward for the Veneration of the Cross. It was a huge cross that we had all passed above our heads in the aisle, and it was set into a large base directly in front of the altar. I remember kneeling, wanting to kiss the cross, but hesitant. Most people weren't going that far, and though we'd been invited to do so, most were just crouching with one of their hands at the base. I remember my arrival at the foot of the Cross. I remember going to both knees, really WANTING to kiss the cross, but I only placed my hand there. It was a large cross, and as I knelt, it was as though I could feel the very Blood of Christ dripping upon me. It was as though he was really there, crucified...for me.

I did not kiss the cross that night. But I walked away, in tears, tears that come to me to this day when I contemplate that memory.

By that point, it had been 11 years since I had been to Confession. I did not go to Confession for another year..but that night was instrumental. For the next year, I pondered that experience, and it was the primary thought in my mind the following Lent when I headed out to Our Lady of Grace to be reconciled to Christ, finally.

I died that day, a terrible myself. My tears were as blood, never greater than the blood of the Sacrifice made for me. The blood that had dripped upon my head a year before.

I cannot write of Easter Sunday yet. Because this Lent, I have not really died. I've experienced God's grace, I have seen the blood of Christ on my own hands and I recognize my guilt. I have been to Confession three times, and still, I "feel" unconverted. I am still running away from God. I'm still the unrepentant sinner.

I am Judas. I am Pilate. At best, I am Peter as he fled his own Call.

I wish I could enter the Triduum as a converted soul, a holy saint of a human being...instead, I think I am entering shattered, the mirror I looked into only shards gathered into my hands, piercing my palms, cutting deeply.

No, I'm not ready Lord. All I have to offer are these broken shards. All I have to offer is my own blood...not worth the value of yours.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Small World!

So I was browsing when I should be studying, and I visited Happy Catholic, who happens to be a graphic designer. Said Happy Catholic also recently herself discovered something she designed and linked to the image at

I followed the link to Amazon to see Julie D.'s work, and upon looking at the authors, I was given pause. They are Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker.

You may recognize the name of Scott Hahn...what faithful Catholic doesn't? He's EVERYWHERE! And I've heard him speak...his conversion story and his exposition on the Mass is incredible. But I'm not interested in discussing him tonight. (Sorry Mr. Hahn, no offense.)

The other author, Benjamin Wiker...that name was familiar to me. Immediately, to be certain, I googled his name and St. Mary's University in Winona, MN. One of the links provided both his curriculum vitae and his photo. (As an aside...what IS it with outdated or inaccurate PhD photos? I don't know a SINGLE professor that has a photo that actually resembles him or her!) So, as it were, I would not have recognized Dr. Wiker from the photo provided...he grew a beard (which seems to be a "mature Catholic theologian" kindof thing to do), and he's not wearing his trademark bow tie.

I remember Dr. Wiker, whom I had for a Senior year core class. At St. Mary's, we had both "Gen Eds" and "Core Curriculum". The latter was actually useful to us, and if I remember correctly, I had Dr. Wiker for "Capstone" which included a great number of readings from Alexis de Tocqueville. I deeply wish I had retained those tomes...and right now I'm grateful I still have my papers from that class. Although they are dismal.

Dr. Wiker actually reminded me of some of my Law Enforcement Skills instructors; he was disciplined, he was intelligent, and it was his way or the highway (translated as: bad grade). But he was merciful; we wrote papers, turned in drafts, and he made sure we knew what he was expecting. So if we were short of the mark, we had very specific directions to follow. And as a result, he had NO MECY on the final paper. He expected intelligent, concise opinions supported by our reading and what we learned in lecture.

I still bring lessons I learned in that class into conversations, especially with liberals.

I would argue that Dr. Wiker's class was among the most important I ever had, and the practical applications of what he taught is helping me today in my Graduate School papers. Maybe I should argue that if it were not for him, I would not be able to meet the expectations of Douglas Bushman, whom I have had as a professor for three classes thus far, and will meet again.

Dr. Wiker was legendary...from the time I arrived at St. Mary's to the time I left, his name was everywhere. As I recall, he is not a tall man, and other students spoke of his formality and his bow ties. But they also spoke in reverential terms of his intelligence and the value of his courses.

Believe me...coming from an undergrad student, that's HUGE.

I remember walking into his class with trepidation, and I remember taking notes (which I likely still have), I remember our fascinating class discussions about Tocqueville, and how he brought the text to life in terms applicable to what we were seeing at that very time. I remember his mustache, and his bow-ties. He was the quintessential professor. I was, all at once, captivated by him and put off, drawn in through his engaging manner, but terrified of his intelligence.

Sad to say, I don't remember any personal interactions, and my rough drafts (which I have saved) are full of red ink in his own hand. But I liked him a lot...we all did. He was an excellent professor and when we were in his class, we knew we were getting what we paid for. He was one of the professors that made me believe that getting a B.A was not enough...that higher education was indeed worthwhile. Because I wanted to measure up, I wanted the academic confidence that he exuded. He was one what made me believe that I could be more than I was, and he clearly expected something more of me. I DIDN'T get that feeling from most of my profs.

It wasn't that they weren't good professors...I received an EXCELLENT undergraduate education (apart from theological formation, isolated to one particular class and professor). Maybe, though, I'm not being fair; when looking back at some of my professors, some of them did clearly expect me to go on, and they encouraged me greatly. (I actually think that maybe I'm a disappointment to some of them.)

But Dr. Wiker taught as though he expected ALL of us to go on to further education. The status quo wasn't enough...we were to meet a particular academic standard and if we didn't, he considered it to be a personal failure.

THAT is the way to teach! He engaged us, he forced us to work hard, and refused to let "Senioritis" get in the way of what we needed to learn in order to survive in the modern world, whether practically or in academia.

I graduated in 1995 (a semester early...I was class of 1996 formally.) Fourteen years later, here I am, finally a Graduate Student, and I think that I have, in part, Dr. Wiker to thank.

I'm glad he is doing so well, and I only wish I could thank him in person for the impact he has had on my life. Maybe one day he will happen upon my blog (not likely), or maybe I'll attend a lecture where he happens to be the speaker (more likely). He won't remember me...I have NEVER been a memorable person or student. But if any of his students stop by...BE THANKFUL for what he is teaching you, and be sure to ask him about Alexis de Tocqueville. Even if he is teaching you'll get brownie points. And if you tie Tocqueville into'll be offered a fellowship if he has anything to do with it.

And if anyone is looking for a gift for me for my upcoming summer birthday...I'd like to have Alexis de Tocqueville's works again. Even better if the volume is signed by Dr. Benjamin Wiker.

Monday of Holy Week

John 12:3
Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.

Luke 7:37-49
Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment,
38 she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner."

I think I understand why this woman did this; I think that I have been given a new "vision" into this Biblical scene. I have always come away from this reading considering the grateful heart of the woman who wept at Jesus' feet. And I have always sensed His compassion, imagining that, as she wiped His feet, he spoke softly, so as not to alarm her, even as He rebuked her detractors. Had Jesus spoken a sharp word, even though it was not directed towards this sorrowful woman, she would have drawn away, terrified, for she knew who and what she was, and she knew who Jesus was.

It was her faith that drew her to Christ; it was His Mercy, it was His Divine Charity that alighted the fire in her own heart. So she wept, allowing her tears to wash over the feet that would soon be pierced, torn, supporting the weight of Christ as he struggled to breathe upon the cross. Her tears contained sorrow for herself and others; they contained the joy of hope, the gratitude of her spirit. And wrapped up in all of that, the fear of forgetting, of falling away and returning to the darkness of the past.

If she could reach out to Jesus, she could realize, once again, the reality of what He had done for her; if she could only touch him, she would be strengthened in her resolve to resist temptation. If she could sacrifice for him, she knew she could express her love through the purity of her intent. She could be made whole...through Jesus.

She wanted to console, to comfort, to show mercy to the one who had been so merciful to her. She did not speak; she wept, and her tears were a deeper prayer than that which could ever be composed by mere words.

On Sunday, an image came to mind, one I've been pondering and will continue to ponder throughout this week and beyond. I will not share this image because it is far too personal. I mention it because the image, while it did not resemble today's Gospel, it has given me a glimpse into what was happening, and it has caused me to be able to see a little more than I ever have before.

This is the holiest week of our year. We are invited to approach the cross; we are invited to deeply consider the suffering and death of Christ, and we are welcome to unite ourselves to His suffering, to engage, to become a part of it. And I have begun this week by seeing the blood on my very hands. The woman in the Gospel washed Jesus' feet with her tears...I can do the same, but I can't wash the blood away. The woman in the Gospel annointed the head of Christ with an expensive, fragrant oil. All I can offer Him is His own blood. I am so impoverished that I can offer nothing other than His own sacrifice of atonement.

I tried to bring the image in my mind to life; I tried to sketch it out, but I do not have the ability. When I close my eyes, I can see every line, I can see textures, I can see colors, I can see emotion. But when I put my pencil to paper, it all disappears.

I used to be an artist of sorts; a few of the drawings that I've done have made their appearances here. But I can no longer create such things.

Many years ago, I remember sitting at my desk at work, during Lent, I think. I remember looking at a crucifix, maybe a necklace. I remember the image that came to mind, and I HAD to create the image. I used my own hand as a model...drawing my left hand...with my right hand. I was reaching for Jesus Crucified, reaching out of the flames. I even find it significant that the picture reveals my weaker hand as being the one to rise first toward Christ.

It took a few years, but I think I have discerned the meaning of that image, and sketching it was a doorway that lead into further contemplation. The sketch itself was a prayer, although I didn't realize it at the time. I was begging for mercy. I was deserving of condemnation...but reaching towards our Savior.

This week, we should all take stock of our lives, and reach upward from the flames that consume us, lest they become the true flames of Hell that will seperate us from our Lord for eternity. Jesus was not crucified so that we might live in comfort; he suffered so that we would be free. That requires us to make a choice.

Even our tears are not enough to quench the eternal fires that seek to consume us; so we reach to Christ, who, in His mercy and compassion, will respond to our contrite hearts and lift us into His enternal embrace. God never spurned a contrite heart...ever. And when others refused to forgive, Jesus provided the example. Even if all we have to offer is His own blood, Jesus will recognize our true poverty and He will pull us from the flames.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday

I left Mass somewhat shell-shocked this morning. It as a combination of things, but mostly, I think one of my lenten prayers was answered, at least in part.

I had a rough night, woke up around 4:30 and couldn't relax enough to get back to sleep, so I got up an got ready to go to the 7:15 am Mass, which was the one I planned to attend anyway.

Once I was there, I had a very difficult time getting recollected. I'd forgotten to bring my Magnificat with me and there wasn't enough time to pray the rosary. So I just sat and looked up at the crucifix, really not thinking about much at all, not really even praying. Present...but not accounted for.

Of late, I've been thinking a lot about Jesus' actual moment of death, and how He willingly surrendered his life. It's such a profound concept, one can get lost in thinking about it. Today, during the gospel reading, it was this scene that caught my attention.

Two revolutionaries were crucified with him,
one on his right and the other on his left.
Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying,
“You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,
save yourself, if you are the Son of God,
and come down from the cross!”
Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said,
“He saved others; he cannot save himself.
So he is the king of Israel!
Let him come down from the cross now,
and we will believe in him.
He trusted in God;
let him deliver him now if he wants him.
For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
The revolutionaries who were crucified with him
also kept abusing him in the same way.

From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon.
And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”
which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Some of the bystanders who heard it said,
“This one is calling for Elijah.”
Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge;
he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed,
gave it to him to drink.
But the rest said,
“Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”
But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice,
and gave up his spirit.

This scene came alive in my imagination this morning. The pitiful image of Jesus, crucified, helpless, nailed to the cross, bleeding, suffering, humiliated...dying. Completely exposed in His humanity; His divinity hidden.

His children, the ones He had come to save, mocked Him cruelly, and how their taunts must have been even MORE agonizing than any of the physical sufferings they had heaped upon him in their anger.

And yet, He resisted their taunts, He loved them too much to respond by fulfilling thet signs that they demanded.

He loved all of us so much that He willingly gave up his spirit so that his humanity could experience the ultimate consequence of death.

I realized that each time I had ever spoken back to my mother, each time I had looked at another with hatred or anger, each time I had ever shunned another person, ever in my action was directed at Christ HIMSELF. And His surrender to the pain and cruelty, to go to His death...even for me.

As we knelt, at that point in the gospel, I was shaking, stunned, finally realizing my own personal responsibility for the death of Christ. It's hard to explain, but I've never really grasped, at a deep level, the guilt I personally bear. And this lent I have been praying that I see, finally, the blood of Christ on my own hands.

Strangely, I didn't cry, not really, perhaps because the sword has gone too deep to be able to respond.

Then, during the Consecration, suddenly I wasn't sure if I believed that was really Jesus, there on the altar. Why the sudden crisis of faith? I didn't understand, so I offered this crisis, knowing the theology, knowing intellectually, and deciding that sometimes we have to will our faith. I considered the words of St. Ignatius on the Eucharist, a few phrases, over and over: "Love crucified...flesh of God."

After Communion, I returned and knelt, those words becoming a prayer. "Love crucified...flesh of God." I knew Jesus was with me. I knew I knelt before Him, guilty, bleeding myself, and wearing His blood on my very hands. Love crucified...for me.

And softly, that little interior voice whispered so softly, "Do you believe again?"

Oh, yes, Jesus. I believe...

We can never understand the depths of God's love for us, especially if we are unable to behold our own guilt. Today, Jesus answered my prayer, and in doing so, is reaching out His hand to invite me to go deeper, to walk with be crucified with Him so that I, too, can be resurrected and reborn. Because He died for love of me, of all of us, so that we can be joined with Him for eternity.

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Jesus, I trust in thee.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


When I was growing up, in classes in school and through magazines, "pen pals" would be advertised. For awhile in 9th grade, I had a pen pal named Paqui from Valencia, Spain. We gave up, though, because we both had to have someone translate our respective letters. I also had a pen pal in Michigan, which relationship began when I met her one summer when visiting my Dad. That didn't last, either.

Adrienne has a post up urging everyone to, for once, get a pen out and WRITE to people...put pen to actual paper or cardstock, and trace, with the ink from the pen, lines that comprise words and sentences and paragraphs, then actually send it by REAL mail. Fr. V., too, laments the lack of handwritten letters which in the past forged such a connection between people. In this age of technology, how many of us receive WRITTEN letters as opposed to electronically-generated bills and advertisements every day?

I know I rarely receive anything handwritten. If I do, it's a card for a holiday from Mom or an Aunt. And as I have admitted before and do so again...I'm horrible at even sending cards!


UKOK has a wonderful post up, an invitation to share with her our true images; what we really look like, so she can place a face to our words. It's a brilliant idea, but I hesitate to carry out the same thing; because I fear if I do, I will have to "come out" here and reveal my true identity.

I did go ahead and send her a photo of myself, as did many other people, via email. Because even we, the Great Anonymous Bloggers, have a desire to make true connections, to see each other, to place a name with a face, to humanize those we are meeting in this area of penpalship greatly accelerated by the advances of technology.

There are a few who know who I really am; we've met in person, or maybe exchanged photos and names and addresses. And I value all of these friendships; indeed, once we take that step, it takes our relationship from a superficial "internet friend" to a level approaching true friendship.

Several years ago, I was involved in a writing website, and there were some people I would have called "friends", although our values were different, although our perspective on life was different, although we had neither seen each other nor would we ever be likely to do so. The site began a series of annual conventions, which are even today enormously popular, and turned those superficial friends into real friends. I do think such a thing is beautiful; for who are your friends but those who share your interests?

I think that, had I gone to that convention, I would have had a great time, but in all honesty, it's unlikely I would have maintained contact with anyone. Because my "friends" there were not really based upon any solid foundation, but upon our interest in writing and in writing about similar things. With some, there was a bond of faith...very generally. (I was at the beginning of my conversion at the time.) With others, it was friendly "chat", which often resulted in revealing a difference of fundamental beliefs, of which we agreed to disagree.

Those kinds of connections with people are fine...but they aren't really "friendships" and I knew it then, and know it now.


When I first entered the world of the internet, I was very cautious; I did not want to put my true name or my face out there, for fear it would be used against me. What if I said something stupid? What if a psychospaz found me and came after me? What if my identity was stolen?

To this day, my email is a pseudonym. I have a very common name, so it's unlikely that will change; adding a letter or number only invites a typo that will send an email with sensitive information intended for me, to some stranger who, with my luck, would be just the person looking for such information for some financial gain. (Not that they would gain anything off of me...I'm very poor and can't afford to have bad credit as a result of such theft!)

Blogging began at the behest of a friend that I met on a Catholic singles website. During the course of our conversations, he thought he might be called to the priesthood, I thought I might be called to religious life. And so we never dated, but our friendship continued. We are friends to this day. He is now engaged and looking at the permanent diaconate...I know...still lost. (I may start a new community: Sisters and Brothers of Perpetual Discernment)

Anywho, after several email exchanges, my friend, himself a blogger, encouraged me to put my thoughts and opinions into a blog. My initial thought was, "What can I POSSIBLY have to say?"



It's been a few years, and I think this blog has become the equivalent of a book. And my commenters, some other bloggers, some not, have become friends. During my first year, a few of us local bloggers got together and had dinner. (I still owe Desperate Irish Housewife a beer from that night.) I've met a few of those people outside of that night...such as Cathy, the Recovering Dissident Catholic. She first contacted me via email one day, and now, we are good friends, and she has a blog of her own which reaches out to those seeking the true faith. And there are others, such as Ray Marshall, and Our Word, formally Judy and Mitchell Hadley. (We watched the Preakness together a couple years ago, in shocked silence as Barbaro first broke from the gate and then shattered his leg in front of his adoring fans.)

But there's more.

Last spring, a reporter contacted me, looking for information on the Catholic and general Christian blogosphere. I put some thought into this because it's different than the writing website I used to be on. The "friends" I have met as a Catholic blogger have become true friends, including those I haven't met yet. There are a few who are truly "pen pals" although we haven't written longhand letters. Yet the seeds of friendship are there, and if we were to be able to meet, we'd likely chat as though we'd known each other forever.

There are bloggers who have contributed to my grad school funds, and, very touchingly, last summer to my vet bills for Fire when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and subsequently put down. I had just quit my job, did not have other employment...and these people came to my aid. They didn't know me in person, they had no idea if I really was who I said I was, and in our world of deception, I would argue that they had every reason to leave me to rot.

But they didn't. Because there is something that unites us as Catholics that goes far beyond blogging or even pen pals. There is a foundation that transcends us. There is a community that was established long before the internet.

We have a supernatural unity in the Catholic Church. Those I call friends in Canada, in Texas, in Ohio (numerous!), here in Minnesota, in Illinois, in Utah, in Tennesee, etc., are not just pen pals or fellow bloggers. They are fellow parishioners. They are the people with whom I would be friends if I went to their home parishes. If they come to my town, I'd invite them to my church...and/or others in my area.

I look a the letters from Clement, from Ignatius, from Paul and from James...they are our predecessors. While they wrote from authority and friendship both, guaranteed other early Christians were writing to each other out of simple friendship and brotherhood. Is the Church really any different today?


You may ask...why, then, with all this happy-go-lucky-warm-fuzzy-brotherhood do I still use a pen name?

Simple; for discernment.

Not EVERYONE on the internet is a potential friend. Not EVERYONE is trustworthy. Not EVERYONE is who they claim to be.

I have actually Googled my real name, and the the only thing I found was actually my race scores in an Alpine GS (Giant Slalom) from a local league a few years ago. Sadly, it wasn't even my best time!

So far, I have been successful in keeping my identity sacred.

Names have power. Names are important, and I reserve the right to give my name ONLY to those who have proven themselves to be worthy. And likewise, I am honored to be entrusted with another person's real name.

When I write, I write what I truly think, what I believe, and what I feel. I have written of my family and of my work. Being "anonymous" allows me to do this freely, without fear that what I say will be attached, correctly or incorrectly to certain people or places. Maybe there's a certain catharsis in my writing, that, through writing under a nom de plume, doesn't degrade to gossip or detraction.

If I knew my family was reading what I wrote, my writing would be sterile and stunted. Most of my friends and others I know, even my coworkers, know I have a blog, but they don't know what it is or where. There are a few who know, but I don't think ANY of them actually read it. And I'm grateful for that; for if they did, I'd become self-conscious and I would likely comment only on the news or some other trite thing.

I have come to see that ultimately, my blog is not about me. Which is amazing, because I talk about myself all the time, hedonistic self-centered, vain sinner that I am.

More and more, I am finding that what I speak, others are feeling, too. My opinions are shared by others, my experiences are not unique. My pain is not my own, my triumphs are shared in the triumphs of others, and my joy is never in solitude. I have found that sometimes, by writing, I am giving others a voice, and in the end, I take a back seat to that.

I would love to see photos of my commenters and other bloggers who do not reveal themselves. But I do not want to do this in such a way that would force me to reveal myself. Because if I reveal myself, I fear not only that I would be found out by those I know and be forced to be silent out of propriety, but also that I would take the forefront...and God would no longer be glorified.

I began this blog when in the process of discernment, which has not really ended. And the moment this blog becomes more about "me" than it does about God, then it's time to hang it up. Clearly, as I write, I am speaking of myself and my own experiences. But as long as I can be anonymous, I can decrease so the Lord can increase...His works can be highlighted in my tiny soul, and in my anonyminity, no one but God knows my true self, and thus, His actions are really on center stage.

When I was a teenager, I wanted to be an actress. I wanted to be a character on stage before the world, my own name in neon lights. Now, I want to be in the orchestra pit, hidden deeply under the stage, playing note by note, contributing to the whole, while above me, the name of Christ headlines...and my job is only to point to Him.

Calling all Cooks! Need help with sauerkraut!

I happen to HATE sauerkraut. My Dad (the full-blooded Swede that he was) LOVED it, so I can still remember the nauseating stench that wafted through our house whenever he made it. And I was even coaxed into trying it a couple times. YUCK!

I've since tried it as an adult...YUCK!

But there was ONE way that I liked it: in a dip. There is a wonderful dip recipe, involving a mixture of corned beef, cream cheese, swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing, and sauerkraut. At, I found a review that mentioned using the sweet/mild bavarian kraut, so that's what I picked up.

But here's my question...some reviewers mentioned draining/rinsing the kraut. I will certainly need to drain this stuff, but does it also need to be rinsed? Is that always true? Or does it depend on what kind of kraut is used (the basic putrid bag stuff or the sweet/mild bavarain also-likely-to-be-putrid-but-less-so-stuff)?

Any advice out there from any kraut lovers with lots of kraut experience?

UPDATE: Thanks to Just Me and Adrienne and Melody, the dip is now complete. And it's very good. The stuff I had last spring was better, but this is good enough to make you choose it over a lard IV.

Here's the recipe I used:

1 (16 ounce) jar sauerkraut, drained/rinsed [I used the sweet/mild bavarian in a bag]
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened [1/3 less fat Philadelphia]
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
2 cups shredded cooked corned beef [combination of 1/2 lb deli and some Budding ]
1/4 cup thousand island dressing

In a slow cooker, combine the sauerkraut, cream cheese, Swiss cheese, corned beef and thousand island dressing. Cover, and cook on high for 45 minutes if you're in a hurry, low for longer if you're not, or just until hot and cheese is melted. Stir occasionally while cooking. Serve with cocktail rye or crackers.

I toasted cocktail pumpernikle rye slices, and also used some Ritz Garlic/Mozzarella crackers. Yummy either way! And you can't even TASTE the kraut!

This is an easy, high-fat, salty dip you can serve for...anything. The fact that it's made in a slow cooker makes it even better. It might kill you, though.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Random Stuff about Me Meme

Anita at V for Victory! tagged me for this meme.

1. Link to the person that tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself.
4. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
5. Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.

I've done a few "random things" memes already, and seriously I don't know what I could possibly come up with, but here's a try:

Six Non-Important Things/Habits/Quirks About Myself

1. I once walked into a closed glass door...when leaving a grocery front of several witnesses.

2. I have never had a massage or a pedicure and think I can live my life quite comfortably (in fact, MORE comfortably) by not having those experiences.

3. When I was 8, I was bucked off of an ornery Shetland Pony named Brandy. I continued to love horses, but for years after that I was terrified to ride them. The matter was probably complicated by the fact it was another few years before I had the opportunity to ride again. (But I'm feeling MUCH better now...)

4. When I was 16, I almost got arrested for riding on the hood of my friend's car (with 2 other friends) as he drove past the town festival proceedings. My Mom still doesn't know about this incident. I don't think I'm gonna tell her. Besides; she'd be disappointed she can't blame my best friend as said best friend was not present that evening.

5. As a child, although I was incredibly shy, I had no problem hamming it up as long as I could be silly. But the second my "performance" ended, I was back to hiding behind Mom, or Dad, or the furniture, or anything else I thought would make me invisible. As an adult, the behavior is reversed...I have no problem talking to people, but don't make me stand in front of them and be silly!

6. I once broke my brother's nose, completely by accident. What a waste.

I'm not sure who to tag on this one. So...I'm going to be lazy and tag Pelagius, Arius, Simon the Magician, Sabellius, Tertullian and Marcion, or the corresponding adherents to the modern forms of the Dead Heretics Society.