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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Scandalous Cross

I heard a speaker recently address the reality of the Cross, and the reality of Christ's love for us, individually, through His sacrifice. It wasn't new information for me (I've written of it here a few times), but it's always wonderful to hear it again, to take it in, and stare at the visual of Christ Crucified.

As the speaker pointed out, Jesus did not die for "humanity". "Humanity" is a concept; Our Lord did not sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane for some insubstantial concept; He suffered His Passion for each one of us, individually. When we look upon His sorrowful visage, His death upon the Cross, we should take time to consider that Jesus did this for each one of us as though we were the only one. ALL of that was Personally. Individually.

And that, he emphasized, is love. That is live-changing love. It's the love the Saints recognized, and through it, knew that they could hold nothing back in responding to such love.

Then he read the reproaches of Good Friday:

My people, What have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me!
I led you out of Egypt; but you led your Savior to the Cross.
For forty years I led you safely through the desert,
I fed you with manna from heaven,
and brought you to the land of plenty; But you led your Savior to the Cross.
O, My people! What have I done to you that you should testify against me?

My Musings:

I left tonight, refreshed, loving Our Lord even more, reminded of His Sacrifice and our need. I left...convicted, but joyful in that conviction.

Yet, I continually run into people who say they are Catholic, but have no time to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. They consider Mass to be "all about community" and if one happens to mention the sacrifice of Christ, and that He offered the First Mass as He hung, nailed to the wood and dying...they back away. They change the subject. They emphasize a warm and fuzzy communal meal devoid of any cost. They want to hold hands and sing "All Are Welcome".

Yes...all ARE welcome to climb upon the wood just as Jesus asked us to do...and unite our sufferings with His. He doesn't deny us....WE deny HIM.

We can't be good Catholics, and we certainly can't be Saints unless we recognize the sacrificial love of Christ. It is what defines us and what has inspired, for centuries, the deaths of countless martyrs. People don't die so brutally for some insubstantial idea of a "communal meal". They die for Truth, and for a Sacrifice that gave them Truth.

The Church certainly IS a community, however, it would not exist but for the suffering, death, and resurrection of Our Lord. We cannot come to "the table" without recognizing that we are truly receiving the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ HIMSELF, and to ignore His sacrifice is to deny Him completely. Such denial is even worse than the kiss of Judas or the searing flesh-ripping whips that laid bare Jesus' bones.

The Cross is so scandalous that many living among us are still denying it, even as they wear it as jewelry or hang it on their wall. They prefer to think of Jesus as "a really nice guy" who "loves everyone" and just wants to make sure everyone has enough bread to eat.

It's no wonder that there aren't more Vocations, that people just dump their kids at the door for weekly religious education classes, or take them to Catholic school but don't live their faith. It's no wonder that the Confession lines are short and the Communion lines are long.

No one is looking upon the Cross and seeing the love of God. If they refuse to see the suffering servant, they can't possibly be inspired to return, out of their own love, such a great gift back to God.

The countries where Christians are being persecuted to such a degree that it's costing them their blood....THEY understand the Cross. THEY are inspired to give their lives for the Faith, either through Vocations or literally shedding their blood. We, here in America, we don't suffer enough. We don't know what suffering is; it's far to scandalous to actually address.

We have to accept the Cross, and we have to LIVE it. We have to be able to look at the agonizing expression of Christ, and allow Him to truly share His love with us...and be changed forever.

It's only by entering into that folly that we will ever be able to understand the Glory of God.

Inherent Inequality

We hear a lot about "equality" in our society. We have the alleged inequalities between men and women (trumpeted by the radical feminists), the financial and social inequalities between the rich and the poor and everyone in between, and the inequalities in the "quality of life" of the sick in comparison to the healthy.

And it's important to address equality; for as human beings, indeed, to a certain degree we have equal status in God's eyes, for He created us according to His divine plan, out of His Divine Love, and we are to look at one another from that perspective; no matter what our social status.

And people have written of this before, but I think maybe we should look at the reality that "equality" is kind of a misnomer in the way that it is most commonly used. There's really no such thing as "equality" for God did not create the world as a barren plane.

In class a week ago, our professor discussed the hierarchical nature of creation; we touched on how everything shares in the Divine Nature to different degrees. The Angels are closer to God and are far more powerful than we are, and animals...well, they have souls, but are not immortal, as are we as humans, and the angels. Plant life is even lower, and rocks, and dirt, and minerals, etc.

And men and women...really not equal, either. Equal in dignity, yes, but we cannot take that sense of equality and take it to mean "exactly the same." Men and women have different gifts, for we were created to fulfill specific purposes. Everything we do is something that can't be done by someone else. All men are not equal in their gifts all women are not equal in their gifts.

This is not an error by God; it is His design. In this way, we are able to fit ourselves together in the community that draws us into our social and spiritual unities. It's part of what makes us the Mystical Body of Christ. It's what makes us families, and friends.

God ordered the world, and the Divine Institution of the Church as a hierarchy, and this pattern is found throughout creation; this foundational inequality ultimately draws us to Our Lord by forcing us to accept our weaknesses so that we might become humble, and sharing our strengths for the benefit of others, that they might become stronger. We are called to aid each other not only in physical things or intellectual things, but spiritually. And an important facet of this; we are called to accept the assistance of others as well.

None of us can become holy on our own. None of us was created to hang out and "worship God in our own way." Yes, we have a personal relationship with Him, but as part of that, God has called us into a family, a community, so that we might share our strengths and weaknesses alike, blending our inequalities so that the Kingdom will be greater, and the King will be glorified.

I may write more on this concept, for it's something that has broadened my understanding of many things; and it's something that one is able to observe in any social group.

We have got to get rid of the idea that "inequality is bad." No! It isn't! Inequality is what makes God GREAT!

And for now, I leave you with this reading from the Divine Office (Mid afternoon)

1 Corinthians 12:24b,25-26

God has so constructed the body, that there may be no dissention in the body, but that all members may be concerned for one another. If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members share its joy.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Today, each reading convicted me in some way. The first, from Eziekel, speaks of turning from virtue to iniquity...and dying.

And I know that I am deserving of death. Even as I sit at Mass, I plot my next sin...I can't even sit through Mass without offending God.

But God is merciful, so in the psalm, we are given a reminder of God's mercy, and His help in turning away from sin, for He will reveal the path. God knows we are weak, we are lost, and we are enslaved to our sins.

In the second reading, we were reminded to put others before ourselves, regarding others MORE IMPORTANT than ourselves. Again, there I was being smacked. Each and every word condemned me.

But the frosting on this cake of conviction came in the Gospel:

A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.'
He said in reply, 'I will not, 'but afterwards changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, 'Yes, sir,‘ but did not go.
Which of the two did his father's will?"
They answered, "The first."

I am the disobedient daughter. I am told to go, I say I will, and then I sit on my duff and do other things. I rarely refuse and then think better of it; I simply lie and say I intend to do something I have no intention of fulfilling.

This afternoon, while praying the Divine Office, this thought was nagging at me. I looked up at Jesus in the tabernacle, knowing my guilt, knowing HE knows my guilt. And I wondered how I could climb out of the cesspool I've created. I considered some people I surmise to be very holy, but remembered some of their own flaws. We all have our favorite sins, we all have things we're working on.

We're not perfect...and it is from that poverty that we reach upward towards Our Crucified Lord.

It came to me that yes, I'm a mess and I'm very entrenched in my sins. But in some areas of my life, things are getting better. I'm not ignoring ALL of God's grace...only selected Grace. It's a Grace alone to recognize that.

And Our Lord reminded me this very afternoon...He's not giving up. He did not go to the Cross for me only to give up on me. He's not asking for me to perfect myself; He's asking me to keep getting up, and keep trying. I may be the disobedient daughter, but maybe one day I'll finally be the one who does the Father's will.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I've had a lot of somber topics lately, and two posts today, so I thought I'd give you a post on the inner workings of Adoro's brain.

It's been an interesting week; busy at work, busy at home, irregular hours, and a medical condition that is freaking me out a little.

But the REAL event this week was one that caused me to send an email to a couple of friends, one I'm certain I'll never live down.

The topic?


Yup. Adoro is a woman and she likes men. Stop pretending to be shocked.

Here's how it happened: I went to pick up some French bread to go with a recipe. After grabbing the bread I considered a couple other things from the deli, but passed them by. As I made my way to checkout, I became aware that some guy was doing the same thing and was right on my heels. I hurried more quickly, thinking maybe I'd "cut him off" and if I took a quick turn through organic foods, maybe I'd get out of his way. Nope. He continued, hot on my heels.

I searched the lines, all were long, so satisfied myself by heading to one of the express lanes. So did my male shadow stranger.

He seemed to be REALLY CLOSE to me. And while I'll admit I'm an affectionate person, I have my boundaries (arbitrary, admittedly) and I don't like ANYONE, especially a stranger, to stand too closely to me. An arm's length or more is nice...this guy was within my zone.

So I just didn't look at him, realizing that if I did I'd be shooting arrows in his general direction, so I just put my bread on the belt and waited behind the guy ahead of me with 17 items. All was well.

Out of my peripheral vision, I saw that my shadow-guy had a bag that might be ice...I didn't look too closely. And from somewhere out of left field, I had the idea that maybe it would be nice, especially considering I was annoyed, if I told the checker I'd pay for his item as well. Ice was cheap, I had only bread, I could afford to pay for 1 extra item, couldn't I?

But I dismissed this, even though it nagged at me. I had this odd desire to do something NICE for someone I'd never met. And even though I was annoyed and hadn't yet seen the person who was annoying me, I didn't have a sense of "danger". Just general, "I wanna get out of here and go home" that I always have when I'm running errands that suck.

Well, the checker finally got ahold of my bread, and as I moved forward, she also grabbed the item belonging to the guy behind me...which I realized wasn't ice, but was a bag of frozen chicken breasts. Just before she ran it, she asked if it was mine. Both he and I, at the same time, said that was his.

That was my first glance at him.

I nearly hit the floor at that point. At just a glance.

And just as I was thinking of the irony of my thoughts while in line, having to do with "the Good Samaritan", he stated, "And you'd think that there would be Good Samaritans in the world today..."

I think that's where I stopped breathing.

Seriously, suddenly I had to focus on every word I said.

That's right...Adoro was speechless.

But I forced myself, and said to him, trying not to drool, "Just so you know...if I pay for that (nodding at the frozen chicken) it will be coming home with me..."

The checker, apparently trying to be helpful, said to the guy, "Well, maybe you should follow HER!"

That's where think my heart may have stopped for a moment.

I couldn't even speak. Time stopped.

He saved me. He said, "Well, I was going make alfredo."

That's when my tongue came back, and instead of making a gutteral nonsensical sound, I uttered, "Oooh! Yummy!"

And he flashed me his smile, which I'd already seen, but that time it was in my direction. By that point I was considering how much I love Jesus and that I really needed to go before I volunteered the fact that I was making pasta, too.

Or, that, God forbid, the checker suggest we have dinner together.

I might well have accepted. And so I thanked the checker as she handed me my receipt, and as I walked away to bag my bread, the cute guy wished me a great night. I glanced back long enough to be polite and wish him one back...but not long enough to make eye contact and stop in time, drooling.

Drooling is SO unattractive. And so weird. But my gosh...I wonder if maybe it would have been WORTH it?

You must understand...this man was BEAUTIFUL. And I haven't reacted like THAT to a guy...maybe EVER.

So I'm a bit taken by surprise by my twitterpation. That's right. I had a moment of being twitterpated.

Yup. Me, Adoro, the woman who is used to working with guys and doesn't tend to be too impressed by them. Has worked with cops, and firefighters, ex-Special Forces, etc.

And there I was, confronted by a moment of attraction, and was rendered nearly speechless.

Oh, my. But he was beautiful. I'm sure he was a jerk. (My consolation).

I just have this sense that I missed an opportunity as I scurried out of the store that day, thinking, "I gotta go now....oh my...I should go...."

Stop laughing....!


Today is the Feast Day of St. Vincint de Paul, a name that is synonymous with poverty and outreach to the poor.

I certainly grew up hearing of his name associated with various funds and food shelves to benefit the poor, and I'm certain my own family received the benefits of works and donations by people dedicated to his mission.

Somewhere around my 8th or 9th year, Mom applied for welfare, and I don't remember a single day after that where we were not under the offical state heading of "poor". I remember bags of food being delivered to our apartment a few days before Thanksgiving and Christmas. I remember clothing showing up at our house, and Mom exclaiming over strange items as though they were the most beautiful fabrics she'd ever seen (even though they were things that should have been buried and left for dead.)

To this day, I have no fashion sense...I'm still too traumatized by the atrocites that were presented to us to understand what "fashion" means. If it fit, we wore it no matter how ugly it was. And we wore out the good stuff in order to avoid having to don things that should never have been conceived by the human imagination.

So I know poverty. I almost died rather that give in to it back in the winter of 1996-1997. At the time, I was in an apartment I couldn't afford, but which was easy to cover when I had the employment under which I'd obtained it. The rent: $600 per month for a one-bedroom. But I lost the job, and spent the next few months just trying to survive. I found a job that didn't pay me NEARLY enough (I'm in a similar situation now), and I didn't think I had ANY time off in my new job. So when I got sick, I went to work. For a day without pay meant I wouldn't eat, or would be short on rent.

So it was that one sickness bled into another, and I ended up with what I think was bronchitis. I woke up one night unable to either draw a breath or exhale. I could well have suffocated in my sleep. As it was, I sat straight up in bed, panicked, my lungs full, my sinuses full, paralyzed. But by a miracle of God, some residual passage must have been available as I coughed some awful stuff out, enabling me to breathe once again.

I laid back down, exhausted, terrified, thinking I should go to the hospital as I knew I might go to sleep and not wake up again. But I had no money, I had no insurance...and if I didn't work, I'd lose the roof over my head.

I never went to the doctor, and slowly, on my Nyquil and other OTC medications, I recovered.

That's poverty; where you won't go the doctor even when you're dying because you have to choose between that, eating, or paying the rent.

I never looked to the State to save me; I'd grown up that way. The State doesn't save; it ENSLAVES. I'd rather die than ever live in the enslaving sweat of taxpayers.

But poverty has a greater meaning.

We consider poverty only by its material meaning, but in reality, it has much more depth. Poverty isn't about the goods we have or have not. Poverty is spiritual.

Jesus said to us, "Blessed are the poor in spirit"

The "poor in spirit" are those who are impoverished not through financial means, but in a deficit of God.

I grew up materially poor, in a divorced family, on welfare and receiving major holiday dinners thanks to our parish. But God was always present, Jesus graced our home, and so we had abundance.

I have never been so poor as in that year I lost my job and couldn't pay my rent; for not only was I without financial well being, I was without God. And that was the greatest poverty of all.

Last year in our Old Testament class, we had to do a synthetic paper on of the the possible topics given by our professor. In speaking with other students, we learned how related was each topic; sacrifice, mercy, poverty, and the disadvantaged among others.

In looking at GOD'S definition of poverty, we see that the disadvantaged are those who are in sin, who have deprived themselves of God, or who never knew Him. THAT is true poverty.

God does clearly teach that we need to care for those with material needs, but what is so wrong in our culture is that the spiritually poor are being ignored, or encouraged in pursuing their poverty. It is a poverty of morality, a poverty of spirit that no one seems to WANT to recognize.

I see so many people arguing for the financial condition of this country, and for their homes and for money for various things. I see so many Catholics arguing for Social Justice and working for social services, and, yes, these things are important. But they aren't everything.

They aren't eternity. The problem is, that even in many (if not most) of these allegedly Catholic programs, there is no soul; there is no morality. It's all about the material to the detriment of the spirit. We are enabling sin, ignoring the need for conversion.

I am a woman who has grown up poor, stand to likely lose my own home in the coming months given the current crisis, but I don't consider that poverty.

So many religious communities are in economically poor neighborhoods, and they are doing incredible work. But the wealthy neighborhoods are being ignored. The Middle Class neighborhoods...where are those?

I'd argue that THOSE places harbor the true poor, for those are the people who have the financial goods to do amazing things, and yet they compartmentalize their lives. They maybe give to charity, but skip Mass on Sunday. They maybe have a crucifix or Bible in their home...but it's only gathering dust.

There is no greater poverty than to be without God. Give me my untreated bronchitis any day, as long as I don't have to suffer it without our Lord.

All of us will die someday. We don't get to take stuff with us. Our goal is eternity in union with God; focusing only on material poverty only makes us poorer.

Let us always remember that as Jesus charged us to care for the poor, we must remember ALL definitions of that term, and if we care for the body to the neglect of the soul, we have not lived up to His Word.

We will all be judged by such an omission.

Guest Post - Saint CK's Holy Card

CK is one of my regular readers, and I tagged her in the post below. Here is her response:

I think I’d be represented by a reclusive mouse. No matter how quietly I hide behind my rock, God keeps prodding me out to do things for which mice are not equipped. (Apparently I can’t even hide behind my lack of a blog or screen name – I still get tagged for a meme!)

The first picture is me saying, “Back off, man!” The other is me with the Lion of Judah.

I recently went to the Cleveland Museum of Art’s reopening and they have a weaponry room full of intricately engraved swords. They have an exquisite two-handed sword on display and I was looking at it thinking about how the Truth is sharper than any double-edged sword. It’s kind of comical to be a Christian and drag around a sword that I am not even strong enough to lift off the ground. Here I come! The mouse with a sword –raaarrrrrrrr! Photoshop that sword into a mouse’s hands and you’ve got my holy card.

I want to be the Patron of Atheists, Scientists, Catechists, the Mentally Ill, and the Poor Souls.

~ CK

Well....I think she's got them all covered...she's already one of MY patrons! (Well, patronesses...!) And no Reepicheep jokes!
Does anyone want to offer to photoshop for CK?

~ Adoro

Friday, September 26, 2008

Holy Card Meme

This one has been making the rounds, so I've decided to tag myself. Check the last line for the idea I added:

The initial premise: What picture do you think would be on your Holy Card if you were to be canonized, and of what would you be the Patron Saint?

Very interesting question, especially considering that I'll be fortunate to make it to Purgatory.

But, if God wills it and I scrape up enough humility to cooperate with God's Grace, sure Sainthood COULD happen. (Stop laughing!)

IF...really big IF..well, this is what I'd like on my Holy Card (never mind the tombstone...):

The artist is Greg Olsen, the title of the picture is "Forgiveness". I choose it because it has such a vivid impact, visually and emotionally. The Sacrament of Confession is so difficult sometimes, even though I go so often, and last weekend in prayer, I had my own visual along with my unspoken prayer, beyond words. I wanted to kneel at the feet of Jesus, place my hands in his, look Him in the eye, knowing He knows all that I've ever done and the sins that keep me from Him now. I wanted to be able to look at Him and know that the scripture passage is true: "Jesus looked at him, loved him...."

I wanted to look into Jesus' eyes and know that in spite of everything, He loves me anyway.

So I went to Confession, and as I prayed my Penance, I couldn't stop the tears. I still had that image in my mind, my hands in His, looking at the unspeakably loving visage of Our Lord. And I told Him that I wanted this experience so much.

Quietly, He said to me, "What do you think just happened?"

Mr. Olsen's painting, "Forgiveness", is me. Constantly, me. Going to Jesus, my head down, hands in His, being forgiven, over and over again. But not looking up, because even though I know He has forgiven me, I can't look up at his patient and loving expression, knowing I'm not worthy of His forgiveness. I'm not worthy of His wounds...

I'd be the Patroness of People Who Have Difficulty Accepting God's Mercy.

And, because there isn't one, the Patroness of Claims Adjusters and Insurance Investigators, and maybe by extension Insurance Agents as well. (Suffered 5 years in Insurance; believe me, a patron saint is needed! Fr. Ciszek is a frontrunner for that position, though.)

And, clearly, the Patroness of the Long-Winded.

I tag:

Cathy of Alex
Fr. Schnippel
Fr. V.
Uncle Jim
Fr. Speekman
CK (You can submit via email....if you choose to accept the challenge...I'll post it!)

Oh, and one other facet that you HAVE to pass on: What do YOU think the person who tagged you would be the Patron Saint of? (grammatically incorrect statement, I know!) Because there's nothing like humility...if the friend you tag disagrees with your self-assessment, this is their chance to get in a slam or a compliment! The result reflects upon the virtue of the taggee....and the sense of humor in the tagger!

I got this idea from a friend of a few years ago; she used to call me the "Patron Saint of Eyes" because she wore contacts, as did I, and so I always had saline or something she needed. Always. Whenever R. was suffering, I had what she needed. (No offense to St. Lucy!) When I was in college, friends joked that I drove the "Bat Car" because...should disaster arise, the remedy was almost always in my trunk, or glove box, etc. Ideas for the rest of you as you ponder where this Meme might go...

As no one tagged me, I'm exempt from this would be challenging, but fun to come up with the patron sainthood of my fellow bloggers!


And be Saints! (I need people to emulate...)

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I really love how God works.

The post I wrote on Tuesday evening is not something I would speak to a real crowd (certainly maybe elements, but NOT in that way!), and I wrote it to deal with my own jitters. Much of what I write on this blog is to convict me. The point of that one; no matter how gutless I feel, it doesn't matter. There is an expectation I must live up to, and that is to speak the truth when I teach. I don't get many occasions to teach, literally two per year. For those who are not practicing Catholics, some of those teachings can seem harsh, not because of the way it's delivered, but because their own consciences are convicting them.

I know this from personal experience.

And I do share that personal experience when I speak to people. Last year I kept it at a minimum (with the exception of my Confession story), but this year I'll be adding in more.

Yesterday, I spoke with a woman who attends the parish with her family, is in some serious financial straits, and looking for options with regard to her children's formation. She is not Catholic, but is raising them "sorta" Catholic. She considers all religions to be the same, and sees no problem with receiving Holy Communion in a Catholic Church. She stated several times that she doesn't feel that ANYONE has the right to tell someone they can't receive Holy Communion.

Ironically, she does believe that the bread and wine truly become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ. She does not believe they are mere symbols, but the actual presence of Christ. She doesn't believe in going to Confession, but asks forgiveness when she receives.

And to make things trickier...even though she believes a lot of what the Church teaches, she has also been "turned off" by the Catholic Church by someone very close to her who so denigrated the traditions from which she comes that she does not want to become Catholic. (That...and she doesn't think the Church can claim any authority beyond that of the myriad of denominations.)

So our conversation was one that took a lot of care. I never ONCE came out and stated she should not be receiving Communion...not directly. I kept it general, but to the point, simply explaining the teachings of who can receive and why, how we must be prepared, etc. Had I stated outright, "You should not be receiving Communion here", well, it would have been the end of the conversation.

Instead, she listened, she stated her position, and I did my best, knowing it's not my job to convert her. It's my job to give her the teachings, and she is honestly interested in learning, but it was clear she was not interested in internalizing. Not yet, but who knows? Maybe in the future.

We all have to remember that conversion implies a relationship. We have a duty to establish that relationship, and lead people to Christ. But we can't force them there at gunpoint or scream and yell in condemnation.

That conversation yesterday, when she revealed her beliefs and what she was doing, of what she said caused physical pain. A couple times I was nearly in tears. I wasn't angry or outraged...just intensely sorrowful that someone could come so close, and yet be so far away and so unwilling to be reached.

But it starts there, sometimes.

Working in a church has really opened my eyes to the state of real people. A lot of bloggers out there just love to rant and condemn, and I used to do that a LOT. And yes, I still mean what I said yesterday, although such a rant would only appy to a specific audience. Not people like the one I spoke with yesterday. Such a rant would destroy her, spiritually.

Some people expressed that they thought I SHOULD state what I wrote in my little pretend speech. I disagreed from the very beginning, and yesterday's conversation brought that very reality home to me.

We must place a guard on our lips, lest by our rash words we chase people away from Christ forever. And WE would be held responsible for such an exodus.

We say we're not willing to go to Hell for anyone, and that's true. But we have to consider that, if we are imprudent, we may end up doing just that.

"Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord,
keep watch over the door of my lips! ~ Psalm 141

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Responsible Preaching

My blog has been a bit quiet lately. I've written posts, and I've taken them down because I decided I didn't like them for some reason or another. Outside of that, I've not felt like writing, or I've just been too busy with stuff for class.

But I've also been spending a lot of time praying, as I always do especially when I'm stressed out. I am facing a while series of things...several events at work converging over the next couple weeks, class, a crazy schedule and my own "issues"

One of the upcoming events that has me worried is something a lot of those of us in Catholic education face at this time of year; a new crop of second grade Parents. That's right: The Sacramental Class.

Last year at this time I was excited at the opportunity to actually "teach", and indeed, I do feel drawn to adult education. I know a lot of non-practicing Catholics come back when it's time for their children to receive the Sacraments, so I was excited at teaching what I perceived (in theory) was a lot like the RCIA class I'd taught the year before.

Not so much. In every place where RCIA was open and curious and questioning,and joyful, well, the already-Catholic parents were closed, uninterested, hostile, and decidedly UNjoyful. It was a physically painful experience. And it got worse in the spring.

I wasn't ready for that. I had never experienced hostility in what was SUPPOSED to be a friendly environment, a room full of brothers and sisters in Christ who loved Jesus and wanted to bring their children to Him because they already loved Him so much.

There wasn't a whole heck of a lot of love in that room. Most of the privation of love was sent like a quiver of arrows in my very specific direction.

So, this year, I'm dreading the start. I have ideas, I'm changing some of the format, and I'm considering a different opener. Some of the things I can head off, for I now know the concerns and questions of the parents, and I learned last year what DIDN'T work, so I won't repeat some of those things.

But...the biggest issue last year was Catholic teaching. I was nearly crucified by vigilantes simply for repeating Catholic teaching. (Stations of the Cross took on a whole new and relevant meaning for me.)

As I struggle with my self-doubt and hesitation, trying to find my courage (since I'm no longer the innocent and naive newbie), I'm hoping it wasn't lost in last year's parish skirmishes. And I keep coming across readings and homilies, or even blog posts that discuss the necessity of speaking the Truth, for it is not men that we are sent to please; it is God.

Father Fox was only the most recent to direct me to this reality, and he stated it succinctly:

Scripture makes clear that pastors and those with a prophetic or teaching role will be held to answer for whether they warned people from a path leading them to danger and eternal damnation. How many souls may end up in hell because I chose not to confront or challenge? And how can God not hold me accountable for that?

While Father Fox was speaking in a specific context with regard to priests, his words convict me as well. For in my job, with my upcoming responsibility, I am in a formal teaching role. I will stand in front of a group of people, who may or may not be hostile to the words and intentions of Jesus Christ (even though they claim to be Catholic), and I will speak the Gospel Truth. I'll be doing this with the authority of my Pastor, who himself speaks with the authority of our Bishop, who speaks with the authority of the Pope...who is the Vicar of Christ and carries the Keys.

I can't stand up there and speak alone. I won't be up there to talk about what I think and give them some made-up listings of beliefs. It will be my job to stand up there and tell them what GOD has commanded, what JESUS has established, and, hopefully, what I'm trying hard to live up to every single day. Even though I often fail.

It's not my job to keep people happy and endear myself to them; it's my job to give them official Church teaching, under the very authority that has entrusted me with this message. And they may not be happy with what I have to say, especially if they're not living it out and would prefer not be reminded of that fact. But, as Fr. Fox so recently pointed out...if I don't provide what I am obligated to provide, I'll be held fully responsible. And BECAUSE I'm in this position, I have a GREATER DUTY to live up to not only the standard of truthful teaching, but righteous living.

So I've been turning over in my mind what I'd REALLY like to go up and preach, if I truly had the spine I WISH I had:

Thank you all, for coming tonight, and I am so glad to see you here! Many of you are now familiar to me, but I've not had the opportunity yet to meet others of you. Many of you attend Mass faithfullly and have called this parish and school home for years. Some of you are new to this parish, and some of you haven't darkened the door of a church since you were baptized or had your children baptized. Welcome back!

I'm going to be very up front with you, as last year perhaps I was not and this caused a certain amount of strife, for which I blame myself. So, this year, I'm going to begin with definitions: I am Catholic, and so are you. This is a Catholic church. Thus, you can expect to find Catholic teaching, and ONLY Catholic teaching here. Being that the Sacraments you want your children to receive have direct bearing on yours and their Eternal Salvation, I can assure you that the teachings you are about to receive are not going to be minced one bit. Should you decide, or if you've already decided that you don't like Catholic teaching, and you disagree with it, this is a wonderful opportunity to ask your questions, air your concerns, and begin your search for Truth.

If you are not interested in Truth but rather in living out your own preferences devoid of Truth, then why are you here? No one is forcing you to be Catholic. The Church is better with you as a part of it, but if your goal is to argue and disagree, slander, libel, and otherwise do direct damage to the Body of Christ, well, you know where the door is and you're free to leave.

You DO NOT have a right to proclaim your own gospel. Yes, you can call Father, you can call my Supervisor, and you can call the Bishop. Yes, if you don't like what I have to say, maybe you could get me fired. That's fine if you go that route. This job doesn't pay me enough to keep my house, anyway. But that will not change Church teaching, nor will I do so in order to satisfy your petty preferences. The Church has stood for over 2,000 years, and will stand long after you and I are gone.

So, to be very honest, this year I'm going to tick some of you off, and you're not going to like me simply because I'm teaching and confessing and professing what Jesus Christ HIMSELF has directed us to do and believe. The Church is here to save our souls, and for some reason, I'm supposed to be helping. I am NOT willing to stand up here and deny Our Lord just because the Truth might make you uncomfortable. It doesn't matter to me whether you like me or not; what I care about is whether or not I'm pleasing God. That's the standard by which we ALL need to live.

My promise to you is that I will provide authentic Catholic teaching. You have the right to disagree. You have the right to reject Jesus in any way that you choose. So did Judas.

Don't expect to come here and meet Judas if you and your children want to know Christ.

OK, no I won't really say that, exactly, but at the same would be so much fun...because if I'm going to tick people off maybe it should be WORTH it!

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, one catches more flies with honey than with vinegar, so this year I'll be swallowing blood from my bitten tongue and pouring on the honey...but the message won't change. Just the delivery and some of the method.

But...if one we could have ONE day to say what we REALLY THINK....

Maybe I should go to Confession for just CONSIDERING this...

I truly hope you priests out there appreciate the agony your staff endures on behalf of your people!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's NOT the Children we have to Catechize's their PARENTS.

This week I attended a meeting during which we discussed the needs of children whose parents are clearly taking them through the "Sacrament Factory", never to darken the door of a church again. Ever.

Yet they call themselves "Catholic" and they think they are making their children Catholic...but they are doing so in name only. They are exposing the children and themselves to certain obligations to God and to the Church community, and then they are withdrawing, literally tearing their little Saints away from Our Lord.

And the Sin does not belong to the belongs to their parents. The sin of the parents is compounded when one considers that one day those children will grow up thinking that it's OK not to go to Mass, to claim to be Catholic and support abortion, to claim to be Catholic...but not have the slightest idea what it means to be Catholic. Even when those children grow up and become adults, they can't really be held responsible, for the ignorance of their parents is being lived out in them...the Sin belongs to the parents.

I can't stress this enough:

Parents...don't take your children to religious education classes in school or in a faith formation program only for the Sacraments if you have no intentin of attending Mass and living the Faith. To do this means you are putting not only YOUR soul in jeopardy of Hell, but your CHILD'S as well.

A parent's job is a big one, and a wonderful one; get your child to Heaven! And the same duty will later apply to a child if they are well formed; get your parents into Heaven!

We don't live in a vacuum. God created our society based on inequality; we have to depend on each other for our needs.

Going back to the topic of our meeting the other day, I lamented that while we worry so much about the children (as we should!), our real outreach efforts should be towards their parents.

Sadly, we are a Church of lost generations. I am a part of that "lost generation", one of them, anyway, and as I look around my parishes, I see very few people my age. My peers may be parents, but they aren't coming to Mass. They're dropping their kids off at the curb and driving away, and that's the ONLY time they actually approach the church.

There are a few generations now who have suffered through "catechesis" that consisted of banner-making and crafts sporting the word "Jesus" on it somewhere. I can honestly say that I didn't learn anything about Jesus by doing that, although I'll never forget how to spell His name. And I long to wake up to the scent burning felt in the morning.

All kidding aside, if we as educators, as good Catholics ANYWHERE want to make a difference, we shouldn't be focusing so much on the children; we NEED to bring back their parents. Teachers in Catholic schools (of the few schools that actually ARE Catholic) and Catechists in Religious Ed. programs have the children for a limited number of hours each week. It's not NEARLY enough to reveal the mystery of God to them. Faith is learned in the home.

We could eliminate all religious education programs from the schools and churches...and faithful families will still raise faithful children, and faithless families will still not come to Mass.

I really question what we're doing. We can't educate the children and leave them to the wolves that are their faithless parents. We NEED to reach out to their parents, find out WHY they've fallen away, establish a relationship, and bring them back into the Church. There's very little hope for the children if their parent's refuse to acknowledge God.

People fall away for a myriad of reasons, and some of them are simple; some of them are complicated. But they identify themselves as Catholic, and they need a hand to come back. Maybe it's just a phone call. Maybe it'll take lots of work. Maybe they're angry, or they've been hurt somehow, or maybe it's just a complete lack of catechesis. Maybe they've been so secularized that they don't even know that God exists or WHY they're sending their children to a Catholic school or religious education program.

Yet this is the group that is most difficult to reach; their myriad of reasons for not practicing their faith are legion, and the idea of reaching out to them is daunting. But if we don't do it, well...then we are to blame. They are OUR responsibility. If we identify the problem through their children, then we also have the obligation to find a way to reach out to these lost souls and give them a way to come back.

I'm not saying it's easy, but we have to do it.

I don't care if we're Catechists, Directors of Religious Ed., Youth Ministers, Priests, or the Average Person in the pew...we ALL have an OBLIGATION to our lost brothers and sisters! God has given us all a hand in Salvation, and we ALL know Catholics who are not practicing, or are maybe just floating on the edges. Sometimes all they need is an invitation.

Let me tell you a secret: I was once one of those people. I was DYING for SOMEONE....ANYONE to invite me to Mass with them. I was DYING for a connection, a way back Home. All it would have taken was an invitation. I had invites from Protestant friends, but I wasn't interested. I knew where Home was, but I couldn't seem to get there.

Not ONE. SINGLE. PERSON. ever invited me to go to Mass with them. Not once.

Thank God He sent me an anti-Catholic, otherwise I fear I'd be dead right now, in mortal sin and maybe physically. I never got an invite; instead I got a bullwhip. (Which, as Isaiah points out...the Ox and the Ass know their Master...)

It shouldn't take an attack; all too often, those attacks against faith pull people away from the Church, into error and apostasy. Therefore, we should be out there inviting, reaching out, living our lives as a witness. And let me tell it sometimes isn't enough. Evangelization may be quiet sometimes, but other times actually demands something of us, and that "something" is literal action.

Offer to drive your fallen-away neighbor to Mass, even if it's not convenient to your regular schedule. Invite your cousin or friend to Mass with you. Sit down with your friend and talk about faith...and see if you can get to the root of their anger. You don't have to have the answers; you only have to provide your ear and maybe a shoulder. And if your friend needs to beat on someone...offer yourself. Hold your tongue and just listen.

Volunteer with your parish to head up a committee to reach out to fallen-away parishioners. Where to start? Maybe those who don't contribute financially. Some of them are in need of services and would never ask for help and are ashamed, but would be grateful for an offer. Others maybe have moved. Others...just feel estranged and never attend. Others maybe attend but don't use the envelopes, and your conversation with them could make a huge difference.

Figure something out. And then do it.

It's not about you, it's not about's about the fact that the Church is here to save our souls, and we are members of the Church.

The burden, the weight of that responsibility falls upon ALL of us, not just our Priests. It is their job to instruct us in how to be holy; it is OUR job to carry that holiness into the world. If we don't do one will.

Class Weekend

It's a little after 5 am and I'm sleepily sipping coffee, trying to wake up. It's so hard getting up this early on a weekend, yet so worth it...well, maybe I'll think so when I have my M.T.S. degree in hand in 2010!

Last night I turned in my paper on the historical background of Isaiah, and remembered something I forgot to edit. And a few other things. And a connection I hadn't made. But then was 5 pages exactly, the professor wanted a 4-5 page paper, and it is simply impossible to make EVERY connection and add in EVERY relevant detail in a convoluted history spanning a lifetime and many nations.

Unless one happens to be James Michener. Then again...his books are looooong....!

I just wish the Holy Father had read my paper BEFORE I turned it in so I could have edited the mnemonic methods I used to remember the names... * sigh *

Do you think my professor will notice?

I guess I can kiss the idea of being some kind of Vatican scholar goodbye....

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Dose of Reality

It never fails. No matter how they hypothesize, and study, and research, and even manipulate, the "scientists" are always left scratching their heads when men and women go on being what they were born to be: male and female.

When men and women take personality tests, some of the old Mars-Venus stereotypes keep reappearing. On average, women are more cooperative, nurturing, cautious and emotionally responsive. Men tend to be more competitive, assertive, reckless and emotionally flat. Clear differences appear in early childhood and never disappear. [Why is this considered to be news?]

What’s not clear is the origin of these differences. [I could make a suggestion that has to do with our Creator and how He ordered Creation and our very dignity as Human Beings...] Evolutionary psychologists contend that these are innate traits inherited from ancient hunters and gatherers. Another school of psychologists asserts that both sexes’ personalities have been shaped by traditional social roles, and that personality differences will shrink as women spend less time nurturing children and more time in jobs outside the home.

Go the rest.

And then go read Theology of the Body, and send it to the "researchers." Maybe it will explain to them why they're scratching their rational-thinking heads and not their monkey butts.

Monday, September 15, 2008


There's a priest I know whose query to me one evening when I asked for a moment of his time was, "What has God put on your heart tonight?"

It was such a good question, especially considering that it pointed to something far beyond me, straight to the heart (no pun intended) of why I wanted to speak with him. And tonight, although I considered writing about the Exultation of the Cross and the Sorrows of Mary, well, Our Lord has placed something else on my heart, and the title says it all.

What do you think of when you hear or read the word "Conversion"?

Typically, it brings to mind ideas of people leaving one faith and coming to another, or going through a drastic life change as they respond in action to God's gift of Grace...or maybe you're a computer geek and you think about converting files or systems or codes. (That one's for my brother...who doesn't read my blog because I won't tell him where it is. But that's what he'd think about.)

In reality, though, we are all in a constant state of conversion. If we're not, well, then, we're ignoring God.

There is a cycle that takes place, for God never stops reaching out to us. He never abandons us, and even when we flee Him, He follows. When we come to Him to receive the Sacraments, we are further empowered to continue to seek Him and bring Him to the world. And at a deep level, if we are truly seeking the face of God...we are recognizing who we are in relation to who God is...and we are humbled.

We are forever changed by the encounter, if our hearts are open to Him. Humility is the foundation of this change, recognizing that we are not worthy, and we can NEVER be worthy to take God into ourselves in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, and we aren't even worthy to kneel at His feet in Confession, and yet He invites us to enter into the depths of his mercy and love. It is there, in this Divine embrace that we find the personal connection and personal love for each of us. Such an encounter demands change, for we cannot experience this without realizing that anything that keeps us from our beloved Savior has to be eliminated from our lives.

And that's the hard part. But that's conversion; it doesn't happen overnight. We can't go from being partygirls and playboys to Saints in an instant. Can it happen? Sure! But does it happen a lot? Nope. It takes work. It goes back to my familiar story of the 12 year Confession...I thought I had to become a Saint in an instant, but no, I needed Confession, over and over again, to help me to both realize what was wrong, and allow Jesus to enter into my pain...and bring me into His glory. As I revealed my woundedness to Him, He revealed His love, over and over again.

I'm still in that process.

The Agony versus the Ecstasy of Conversion

It's a lot like a burn victim who comes to the Burn Unit, desperately wanting and needing healing, but the treatment can be worse than the burn itself. And the healing! It consists of an ongoing agony of debridement, of skin grafting, of rehab, or even the awful humiliation of baring one's body to perfect strangers! Yet the patient realizes the necessity in his helplessness and woundedness; for he realizes he may die without this ongoing cycle of agony. So he or she submits to what needs to be done trusting out of necessity.

So it is with conversion.

We have this idea that conversion is supposed to be a pleasant experience. It's not. It may have its pleasant moments, ecstasies, if you will, but those are short-lived and more often, we are confronted by the Cross that we carry, often of our own making. That isn't supposed to be comfortable; it is only through our pain that we come to recognize that we need help, and that our help is found in God. It is only when our Cross knocks us to the ground and we are on our knees in the dirt that we can see God face-to-face in the suffering countenance of our Savior who bore His Cross (OUR sin) in order to enter into our own pain. And there...we can be drawn towards Him, and we can be converted.

This doesn't happen just once, but over and over again.

Sure, we might have an incredible "conversion experience" and I can name a few of my own. But that just makes my point: it wasn't "one moment". I can't give you a testimony of a second in time in which God revealed Himself to me. I can give highlights, but those weren't the conversion itself. The process isn't finished. I am not yet what God wants me to be. Even if I've met what some may consider to be the proper "status quo" of what they define as a "good Catholic", that's not the yardstick. God has a plan; and it is only HIS standard that matters.

He defines His standard through scripture, through the Magisterial teaching authority of the Church (i.e. the Pope throughout the centuries and the college of Bishops), and I can tell you...I'm falling short. But there's comfort in knowing that Our Lord is not expecting is He who perfects us. We are only asked to cooperate with His Grace, respond to His call, and continuously work to conform ourselves to Him.

Conversion is lifelong. Having a conversion experience that brings us to desire to attend Mass each week when we hadn't been before...that's a step. It's a big one, but only a step. We can't stagnate there and say, "I'm a good Catholic because I try to go to Mass each week."

A lot of people do that, but they're the same people who say, "I don't get anything out of Mass" or "Sometimes we as a family think that it's a personal choice to attend Mass when we get around to it."

That's not acceptable to God. He calls us to more, to something greater. We are called to HOLINESS. Holiness starts with attending Mass each Sunday in accordance with the Ten Commandments to keep Holy the Sabbath. But it continues, to each and every nook and cranny of our lives.

Conversion shines a light on those areas of darkness in our lives, those dark corners that maybe we'd prefer remain hidden, for we are ashamed of the reality of our lived existence. Conversion, utilizing the Sacrament of Confession, lifts up the rugs to expose the dirt we've swept underneath, and the cobwebs in the corners behind the computer that maybe we don't want to look at because we're ashamed. But God sees it, and through conversion, we see it as well. We become compelled to get rid of the filth. All we have to do is identify it and renounce it...but Jesus hauls it away.

It might take a long time, and indeed, we can never be perfected here on earth. We are only called to continue to respond to God's grace, to walk towards Him step by step. Conversion isn't instant perfection; it is the world used to describe the process that brings us to holiness. If we aren't moving forward, then we are falling behind. If the presence of our Savior is not our goal, then we are lost.

Conversion, then, properly defined, is the process through which we are drawn into loving conformity with Christ.

Are YOU experiencing conversion...or have you lost your way?

That is the question. Never fear, for Christ is with you as long as you seek Him.

WOE to Me!

I had to work yesterday so I'm off today hoping to write my paper on the historical background of Isaiah 1-39.

I am more confused about this now that I've finished the reading than I was before I began! So, here's my take on Isaiah:

Isaiah got his commission as a prophet in 740 BC, I think, and that's the same year King Uzziah died, and King Ahaz suceeded him. And Ahaz had false piety and ticked off Isaiah and God. And his prophecy about the child to be born to a "young woman" if translated that way might have been Isaiah's own son who lived out the rest of the prophecy. But it can also be messianic when taken in a larger context. And somewhere King Hezekiah in chapter 35 or something said a prayer for deliverance from the Assyrians, but that's at the end of Isaiah which is really the beginning, and I still can't figure out who was in charge of the divided kingdom in the north and south especially when sometimes "Israel" means "Judah" and the rest of the time it means "Israel" as in "Israel". And Ahaz or Hezekiah both wanted to join with the Egyptions, but the Assyrians wanted Israel as a buffer state, and Isaiah said to trust God not alliances, and the Israeliates kept getting smited as they continued to be worldly and idolatrous and ignored God.

There are many lessons for us in Isaiah, but I'm not sure history should be one of those lessons. Can't I just go back to having the metaphysical abstract spiritual and synthetic understanding of Isaiah? It's a lot more logical than the history which is completely out of order in comparison to the text.

OK...I have 4 pages with endnotes and a Bibliography to write today. I'll deliver it to my professor with a brick wall so that as he reads my paper he can have something to slam his head against in frustration.

Works for me.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

One of the Best Posts I've Ever Read!

You simply must check it out at Creative Minority Report.

Here's an excerpt:

Now, because Joey got up all the kids get up and start wandering around like dazed primates. They don't even know why they got up. They just know that one of their own got up and there were no consequences's get up time. So I'm trying to turn the stroller around to come back down the aisle to bring the consequences and then it happens. IT. The worst thing that could happen. In my efforts to turn around I knock over my soda. My Gulp. My Super Big Gulp. My 64 oz of black bubbly mess lands with a thud loud enough for everyone in the hottest cafeteria in the world to turn around and look at me. The baby heard the thud, got scared, turned her head quickly into the side of the stroller and is now inhaling all the air in the room in order to scream the scream of angry baby anguish in an echoing cafeteria. While she's still inhaling, the soda spreads rapidly under the chairs of everyone in a ten yard area.

Then the scream happens. Every person with eyes looks up at the sweaty irresponsible Dad who clearly isn't capable of watching his children. Then people look down on the floor at the expanding mess. They're lifting their feet. The speech stops.

I slowly reach over, pick up the screaming baby, put her on my shoulder, and begin dragging the stroller backwards down the aisle, leaving an oozy trail behind me like a carbonated slug. After a few seconds where I was the focal point of the entire universe, the speech starts up again and a few people moved down a few chairs to avoid the mess.

Go read the rest!

I just love parents. They both frustrate and amaze me...I know all about parents who just drop off their kids and expect others to care for them...and others do, for who could abandon a child? Only a parent. And who can find all the love to care for all the children sent their way? Only a parent.

One of the incongruities of life.

And I'm constantly amazed by the parents who step up to deal with everything that comes their way...and the humor in all that transpires!

I only hope one of the "drop off" parents involved reads this post and realizes that their kids are awesome human beings in spite of them!

OK, that was mean, but's all too often true.

Many of you know what I'm talking about, and it doesn't matter...just GO READ!

Friday, September 12, 2008

God is your Father, Mary is your Mother

Today is my Dad's birthday.

He died in 1995, but if he were still alive, I'd be calling him today to see how he is. To tell him how I am. To talk about...things. If he lived close by, we'd take him out for dinner or something. And Dad would tell stories.

I think I get that ability from him.

Dad was a gentle soul, loved others unconditionally, likely from the suffering he experienced in his own life. It seemed his lot to always be reaching out to others in some way. He was always smiling, always joking, but I think that when it came to his true pain, he hid it from the world.

I'm just like him, in so many ways, and more and more I have come to see it.

I miss him a lot. The last time I saw him was at my high school graduation. At the time he was living in another state, with my grandmother, keeping her company as grandpa had died several years before. So it was that in Jr. High and High School I hadn't seen Dad a lot; we spoke on the phone, we saw him occasionally, on holidays. And as the years went on, this happened less and less. There is more to the story, but it's something I'm not ready to discuss, and may never do so on my blog.

His death was shocking only in that death is ALWAYS shocking in the void that it leaves, and the grief and sense of guilt that sometimes (maybe often) takes its place. We expected something, but when it still hurts.

Dad died of hepatic and renal failure, acute onset. His last words were the name of the hospital: St. Francis.

Dad was Lutheran, but I am comforted by the idea that his last words were the name of a beloved Saint, one who would have known and understood Dad's true poverty and may very well have been with him then as as he left this world later that day.

I've been praying for Dad all day, missing him, wondering how he is. I don't know what his beliefs were at that time; Lutheran in name, but Mom feared he was an atheist by then, although the evidence we found was that he believed in God and knew he was dying...and may well have been ready. In hope, I continue to pray for him.

Growing up was hard. My parents divorced when I was only eight, and shortly after that, Mom was diagnosed with Bipolar...after she had a psychotic episode. When we moved to Minnesota to be closer to her family, nothing was fixed although the family was helpful on many occasions. Dad moved up here a few years later, and again...nothing was fixed. They weren't married. Mom wasn't even coherent a lot of the time, and Dad...well, Dad was just absent from our lives except for weekends, and even then, he was absent.

A few years ago I was speaking with a priest about the difficulties I was having with my you might guess, our relationship hasn't been perfect. I wanted it to be, but it simply wasn't there. I still look at my friends and witness their FRIENDSHIPS with their mothers and wonder how that happened for them? I know the answer, theoretically. That evening, the priest said to me, "God is your Father, and Mary is your Mother."

I think he was actually at a loss as to how to respond to my predicament, but in those words, he gave me my answer, and I have grasped that phrase as I would a lifejacket if I were drowning.

Over time, I've greatly worked on my relationship with Mary, and indeed, things between my mother and I are so much better than they were, and improving constantly. In school, especially, I've come face to face with God in the Old Testament, and His constancy through the New Testament...and even God as my Father has become more understandable to me.

Our families reveal to us the face of God, and if our families are dysfunctional, we often form our knowledge of God on the basis of such corrupted experiences. So it was that, being told to direct my focus from what was so wrong, to what was absolute Truth personified was the perfect advice to begin to heal the rift that has covered so many years.

Jesus Grieved for Joseph

Today yet another piece fell into place, something I've never considered.

This evening I went to Mass, and while praying for my Dad, missing him, wondering about him, Jesus said to me, "I lost my earthly father, too."

If I'd been walking, that revelation would have stopped me in my tracks.

We often think about Jesus and His Mother...but we don't think of Joseph. We often speak of Jesus' grief when his dear friend Lazarus died, but because it isn't recorded in scripture, we don't consider his grief when St. Joseph passed away. We speak of a "Happy Death" in reference to St. Joseph, as he would have had Jesus and Mary at his side, but we don't consider how Our Savior, in His humanity, would have suffered such grief as His earthly protector and father paid the price of original sin in his death.

Jesus was raised by Joseph and Mary. He would have learned everything about being a man from his earthly father. He was a carpenter; just like Joseph, as Jesus took on his father's trade like every other boy did at that time.

Of COURSE Jesus grieved when Joseph died, more deeply than anyone has ever grieved for their parents. For Jesus had the full understanding of WHY he died, and loved Joseph with the perfect love not only of a son...but of the Father Himself.

I realized today that even as I will forever grieve the death of my father, Jesus is present with me there, and welcomes me, and all of us, into His own grief. We are united in this sense of loss that arises out of love. Where there is no love, there is no grief, and so even in what we consider to be "everyday" suffering, we are still participants in the love and suffering of Christ.

Indeed...there can be no love without suffering..and no suffering without love.

I miss my Dad because I loved him, and still do. No matter what happened in our lives, there was always love, and that's the only thing that matters.


Dad, I love you. Rest in Peace.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

We Will Never Forget

I originally posted this in 2005 and 2006, but it seems appropriate to post it again, on this anniversary. We should never forget this event. We should never forget the lives lost, the lives saved, the tears, the tragedy, the heroism and the ultimate triumph of the American people. I'll admit that sometimes I hate this country; I hate the secularism, I hate the materialism, the petty politicization of EVERYTHING, the systematic removal of God from our culture, etc.

But on that day, September 11, 2001, the true soul of America was displayed in the very people before the politicians had the opportunity to spin it in their own image. We cannot help but remember, today, what happened then, where we were, and the renewal in faith that occurred, born of the ashes of the Towers, the Pentegon, and of Flight 93. That Day lives one because we can't erase the images we will NEVER forget......


Let us remember in prayer our brothers and sisters whose lives were lost on this historic day.

I will never forget this day only a few years ago. That Tuesday morning, I was a Firefighter Cadet at the ominous Training Tower, only a few weeks from graduation from the arduous course. The city which had employed me had a long program of academics, followed by six weeks of hell at "The Tower".

"This Isn't An Accident"

The Tower days consisted of roll call and SOP's (Standard Operating Procedures), a quiz in the morning, and a synopsis of the day's activities to come. On that morning, September 11, 2001, as we sat discussing "high fires", which refer to skyscraper fires and the procedures utilitzed to fight them, the Deputy Chief of Training walked in carrying a TV set.

He apologized for the interruption, stated that a plane had just flown into the World Trade Center, and hurriedly set up the TV until there was reception. All of us sat transfixed as we watched the South Tower burn. Then, before our eyes, another plane hit the second tower.

We had had trainng in Weapons of Mass destruction, terrorism, triage from our EMT class, etc., but nothing prepared us for what we saw that day.

The Training Captains used this as an example of what we were to cover that day. They explained what the New York firefighers were going to do as they approached, as they set up, etc. One Captain emphasized the need to coordinate the evacuation of citizens from the towers, the mass response due to the two planes, and the understanding that this was a terrorist attack...this was no accident.

I remember asking the Deputy Chief the following questions: At what point do they determine that it's time to leave? Who makes the decision that a structure should be evacuated?

I appraised the heavy fire showing in the upper floors of the South Tower, the fuel from the jets, and the obviously collapsed floors which were directly affected by the planes.

The Deputy Chief admitted that he and one of the other chiefs had an ongoing agument about this; he believed that the tower would hold...the other chief beliefed that the load was too much and would not withstand the assault. Our Deputy Chief gave me a very general answer regarding the evacuation of fire personnel which did not satisfy me.

Finally, our Chiefs and Captains told us that we would be watching this for days and weeks to come and it was time to hit the apron to begin our day. Just as we finished our warm-up exercises outside, the Deputy Chief threw open the door to his office in the temporary building in the yard and ordered us over. He revealed that a plane had just hit the Pentagon, and one crashed shortly after near Pittsburgh. He told us that the towers had fallen. His face was red; his voice shook with genuine emotion.

The good Deputy Chief apologized; he told us he had no idea this was going to be this big. Tearfully, he revealed to us that he had at least 20 friends with the New York department he knew had just perished beneath the weight of those buildings. He had to sit down as he discussed those he'd ridden with in the past; those NYFD collapse rescuse firefighters who had given him much of his knowledge. He apologized for his emotion, but without need; I think most of us were in tears already.

Others in our class also had friends and relatives in New York, and one of our training captains had family both in the city and in the Pentagon.

Those who were not directly affected still had tears in their eyes whether out of sympathy or just plain shock at what was happening on U.S. soil.

Our city, a major one, was placed on alert, of course, ready for an attack. Even though we were only cadets, for all practical purposes we were considered to be Firefighters, and in the event of an attack we would be put to work. We were not allowed to leave for lunch, but food was brought in for us, and we watched as the police officers from the canine training center nearby brought their dogs over to sniff all of our buildings and personal vehicles.

We did end up doing some training that day, each evolution taking on a special meaning.

We walked up the cement steps of our 6 story tower, carrying hose bundles and remembering dead firefighters with every step. We sprayed water onto non-existant fires, remembering the futility of the same actions in New York. We dragged wet hoselines down and cleaned up, considering those who had died that day never got a chance to clean up. We removed our turnouts and hung them in the shed, exchanged our air tanks, and finished our day, realizing that somewhere around 300 firefighters were not going home to their families that day.

We gathered in the classroom for the end of the day summary, and one of the captains gave us this speech:

"All of you saw today what happened in New York. Consider how many firefighters died today. You will never be able to claim that you don't know what this job is about. Every single day you go out there you don't know what's going to happen or if you'll make it home. Those who responded today planned to go home after their shift...and instead, we're going to be watching funerals of firefighters for weeks. You know what this job is about and you know the risk. So after witnessing something like this, if some of you, or all of you, choose not to come back tomorrow, we will all understand."

With that, we were dismissed and there was never such a somber, silent exodus from the Tower. There was no joking; there were no plans for the evening. There was only the knowledge that many had died that day, and we were in line to wear a similar uniform and do a similar job...and possibly pay a similar debt.

And the next day, all 22 of us returned.

I will never forget where I was that day because I was standing in the very shoes of those who died. I wore a similar uniform and I had similar aspirations. I went through the same movements as we set up a response to a fictional fire in a skyscraper and fought it. But training took on a new tone after that.

I was injured in training about a week later, and as a result, I am no longer a Firefighter although I was sworn in with my class and given the same title. I can't say that I'm disappointed to not be there anymore. However, that said, I will never forget where I stood, how I felt, or the weight of the turnouts I wore when I watched other firefighters die in a city far away. I'll never forget the pride when I saw the survivors respond to find either other survivors or recover their dead.

I will never forget the world turning to prayer, offering condolences, or their realization of the sacrifices real people made right under their noses day after day.

And so to all the firefighters and police officers, paramedics, EMT's, and other responders out there, I salute you, I offer my condolences, and I will continue to pray for your safety. Keep up the good fight! We would not be a community were it not for you. Perhaps I am not called to stand in your shoes, but I respect you so much more for I understand what it takes to be where you are, and to give what you are required to give.

And for all those who perished on September 11, 2001, firefighters, police officers, EMT's, paramedics and civillians...may you rest in peace in the arms of our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ.

We will never forget you


We Should Never Forget

It's one of those moments in history that will forever be burned into our memories. We'll always remember where we were on September 11, 2001.

I'll never forget the images on the tv, watching the plane flying into the second tower, looking at the ruined Pentagon, staring in horror at the burned slash of ground in Pennsylvania. The sounds of the firefighter's PASS devices crying out because they could not...and no one able to respond. The people falling from the towers, then realizing they were jumping for they had to choose their form of death; burn to death or take a leap? Some held hands as they jumped.

To this day, I still cry when I consider those images; such a loss of life, so many families all over world affected in this disaster.

That day, those events, all the people involved, has changed us, and it should change us. We lost our false sense of security that day. We saw our vulnerability as a nation, and our mortality as human beings. And we saw what was really important and set about doing what we needed to do even as we mourned.

But do we remember the slogan, "We Will Never Forget"? Then why have we forgotten? We've moved on focusing on the war and partisan politics and other things, and that true soul that we uncovered in the great tragedy has once again become buried in the pettiness that all too often characterizes us.

Indeed, we have to move on to a certain degree, but today, of all days, we need to stop and remember where we were, and honor all of those who lost their lives, and all of those who leapt into action to aid the survivors, the families, recover the dead, and fill the myriad of needs that arose in the days and weeks that followed. And I guarantee you...those who still mourn still need to be remembered, for their pain is far more personal and lasting than even the images that were burned into our memories. Pray for those who have died, but don't forget about those who still live and may struggle through this terrible day with an unimaginable sense of grief. Pray for them. Be present for them.

And NEVER forget.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Few Random Thoughts and Some News

Things are going to be very busy this week and next as I labor through the stuff I have to do for my Old Testament class...the reading alone is very laborious and as of right now, I haven't a CLUE as to how to approach my 4 page paper. I'm hoping that by the time I finally get through chapter 36 of Isaiah, which is being read along with extensive commentary and the footnotes of the New Jerusalem Bible, well...that I'll have SOMETHING to put down on paper.

In other words...I likely won't have much to say otherwise, or if I do, I won't have time to say it. I think I might have some stuff in "draft" status that may appear randomly if I get around to it or feel like posting it.

On The Blessed Mother

We recently celebrated the birthday of our dear Blessed Mother, which had me musing a bit about the gospel of John. It is so striking that Jesus look down from the cross, and said to John, "There is your Mother", and to his mother, "Woman, there is your son." The use of the word "woman" as applied to Mary is extremely significant in the paschal mystery, however, at this point I am not going to go into that particular exegesis. Rather, I'd like to direct your attention to the common understanding of this; how John stood in for us all, and we, like him, are to take Mary as our own Mother as well.

But I'd like to say that there's another way to look at this. Certainly, in history, Mary needed someone to take her in; she was a widow, she was alone, and her only Son was leaving this world behind. And so it made sens that the beloved Apostle would take her in. May I suggest, though, that just as she needed a roof over her head and a family, the Apostles ALL needed someone to care for them. For, as God knows, men are completely helpless and without a woman to help them, they'd be completely lost.

(Guys, I love ya, but I don't know a single good man who fails to appreciate the women in his life!)

So...I'm just sayin'...

On to the news...

As you know, I fairly recently returned from a trip to Ohio. I'm going back!

Through an unexpected twist of events, in October I'm heading out to Cincinnati and then on to Columbus to attend the annual Coming Home Network's Conference. Much of the time will be spent having fun, seeing old friends and meeting new ones (because it seems everywhere I go I meet new friends...!). But I'll also be gathering info to be used at work and such, so this trip actually has a professional dimension to it...which I don't think will decrease the fun one bit!

I do hope to write about this conference when I return.

But of course, until then there will be work, work, work, studying, studying, studying....

So it goes.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Where Is the Cross?

Today's readings discuss fraternal correction, and the necessity of it. They bring us a harsh message, for we all are both called to a higher standard, that being Heaven, and we are all called to help others get there, too, maybe even before we do.

Priests, especially, have a responsibility to get us all to Heaven, as Fr. Schnippel points out in his post today. The reading that got his attention is this one:

Ezekiel 33:7-9

Thus says the LORD:
You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel;
when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.
If I tell the wicked, “O wicked one, you shall surely die, ”
and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way,
the wicked shall die for his guilt,
but I will hold you responsible for his death.
But if you warn the wicked,
trying to turn him from his way,
and he refuses to turn from his way,
he shall die for his guilt,
but you shall save yourself.

Father Schnippel had his own commentary to offer:

As priests, I think we all need to get back to this, the identity that my path to salvation, to heaven, necessarily involves helping others to get there first! If, especially as a diocesan priest, I am just concerned with my own things, I will be held responsible for the waywardness of the souls in my care.

He's right. I wish all priests realized that. Many do, and they're bucking the Machine, the laity that have laid siege to the parish, insisting on a lateral theology that worships one's neighbor and makes one "feel good" as opposed to living out the TRUE message, which is a difficult thing to do.

For example; today at Mass, hearing these readings, knowing that I fall short, knowing how hard it is to correct a friend in such a way that they are not offended, or living my life in such a way that I don't offend those I love, well, sometimes it's impossible. Today's message is about what love is REALLY about. But at my parish, do you know what the recessional hymn was? Some claptrap about "accepting one another as we are".

No WONDER people leave Mass and don't do anything to change themselves or the world. It's no surprise that no one is convicted of their own sin. There's a HUGE disconnect between the lateral-theology "hymns" compared to the readings we hear and the actual SACRIFICE taking place at the altar! The readings today should convict us in some way, but when the hymns a misguided Music Director has chosen instead focus on "loving and accepting others" with no definition other than a feel-good litany that doesn't indicate any kind of change...the point is being missed. Each and every song today was inspired by "the guy next door", but I have to wonder.

Am I missing something? I thought we were at Mass to worship GOD! I thought that GOD was our audience, and we should be singing to HIM, worshiping and adoring HIM, not the person sitting across the aisle!

Some time ago, a wise priest told me that the reception of only ONE Holy Communion should be enough to turn us into Saints. Why doesn't that happen?

People say that they don't "get anything" out of Mass. Maybe because the music has worked to contradict the readings in such a way that they aren't inspired to change. The readings say one thing, the music tells them "I'm OK, You're OK, We're all OK, let's go on a hayride!"

It's that much straw.

I couldn't stop looking at the crucifix today, though. I kept staring at Jesus, the suffering and death He endured for us...and here we are in His actual PRESENCE singing to each other, ignoring Him, not caring enough that His blood is on OUR hands and we're celebrating ourselves and how awesomely we serve each other.

People think fraternal correction is necessarily judgmental. It isn't. And I've lost friends because of living out my convictions, having to make a choice quite literally between what God asks of us out of love, and my signature on a piece of paper that would cause my friend to die like Terri Schaivo.

My decision was very clear. I called my friend, hoping to be able to explain to her why I had to take my name off the form as her primary proxy in the event she was incapacitated. I was hoping to help her see the death she was asking for, and why I couldn't be a party to it because I loved her too much to let her do that to herself. She wasn't a religious person, although she WAS legitimately a caring soul. She had been there for me through some amazing and difficult times in life. For example, when I graduated from Law Enforcement Skills, a true accomplishment indeed, she was the ONLY PERSON there to witness the occasion. She took me in when I would otherwise have been homeless. When I moved to the Cities, she was my ONLY friend up here. And so, having this conversation with her was more difficult than perhaps you could imagine.

I had gone to the priests who were at my parish at the time, hoping for some pastoral advice in how to have this conversation for which I felt very ill-equipped. I KNEW that my friend would take my need to be removed from this very personal document of hers as a direct attack against her, and was hoping for some advice in how to approach her. The best I got from them was, "You wouldn't let your dog starve, would you?" NO! Of COURSE NOT! But that wasn't my question. The question was HOW to explain this, how to to be pastoral about it. Unfortunately, I didn't know that word at the time.

And perhaps it didn't even matter. There was no discussion. I had to tell her, as gently as I could, that because of my beliefs about life and death and medical ethics, I couldn't be a party to what she was asking. I believed it to be murder. There was no discussion; she demanded that I compromise my values on behalf of her lack of value, and when I gently refused and tried to open the topic for further discussion, she hung up on me.

I know that she was very hurt by what I said, taking it as a personal rejection, which it was not. And I can still hear the "click" and the dial tone, feeling powerless, knowing that her own rejection of me was rejection of God, rejection of life. It's STILL painful, and it OUGHT to be, because THAT'S what makes me continue to pray for her.

That's what today's readings were about. Not accepting others in their sin, but loving them enough to call them on to something better. Something that elevates their dignity to GOD'S DEFINITION of dignity, not our own.

Loving others means not just going to the foot of the Cross and celebrating the Resurrection with those who are present. It means climbing that wood and allowing OURSELVES to be nailed, vilified, humiliated, and abandoned.

If we can't find the Cross in the crowd we're's time to get out of the crowd. If they'll come with us...great. And if they don't no matter how hard we try, well, we entrust them to Divine Mercy.

We have a decision to make; go to Hell because we refuse to help another get to Heaven, or lose an earthly friendship by loving them as God intended, and in the same way that Jesus loved us.

When you look at it in those terms, the decision isn't so hard. Just make sure you have a lot of bandages on'll need them.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

One for the History Books INDEED!

Found this one over at Transcendental Musings. Thanks, Angelmeg!

Fair Warning! Put down whatever you happen to be eating or drinking! I will NOT be held responsible for the resulting condition of your keyboard or monitor! Or anything else within spraying distance!

On Voting Pro-Life

Is Pro-Life the ONLY issue? No. Nor should it be, but in the case of non-negotiable priorities, it NEEDS to be. A candidate's stand on life is fundamental to everything else they believe or profess. In Catholic Social Teaching, everything flows from and finds its very dignity in life. Social Justice divorced from moral teaching is the soulless social action we see all around us, such as in sending condoms to third-world countries. As in PP's agenda against life at all costs in the name of "safe sex". Right. Not too safe for the resulting baby, is it?

Everything flows from morality, and if someone's moral stance isn't in place, or isn't strong, then it stands to reason that everything else that person stands for is also based upon flaws, for everything stems from life.

So, to Candidates seeking my vote, if you're "Pro-Choice" my vote is automatically NOT in your favor.

I will refuse to vote "Pro-Choice" for the VERY SAME reason that I would refuse to purchase a house with a cracked or otherwise-flawed foundation.

'Nuff said.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Romanticizing Discernment

Today I came across a couple of blogs that discussed the reality of religious life. One of those is one I regularly read, Fr. Phillip Neri OP, Ph.D, another is a blog I can't seem to find again but hope to stumble upon again!

In any case, both discussed discernment, and the idea of entering the priesthood or religious life for the RIGHT REASONS, and not having any illusions about it. Those who sense a call from God and try to enter with romantic ideals will be disappointed. In short; they won't survive, and may even be embittered by the experience!

Having BEEN in that boat a few times, and in fact, having built and driven that boat, and tried to swim it in when it broke down, well, I'm an EXPERT when it comes to such a charge.

Those who know me best know that I wear my heart on my sleeve. It's not something I'm proud of, but it seems to be something built into my very personality, and something I've been fighting ever since I decided back in High School to go into Law Enforcement. And those of you who don't know me but know other people maybe like me - you know that those of us who have such a personality are also hopeless romantics.

Yes. We WANT to see the world through rose-colored glasses, we dream of things of beauty, we believe in "Ever-After", and riding horseback into the sunset with a shotgun across our laps, prepared for everything....but prepared for nothing.

Because the shotguns are only props and the horses came from a dismantled merry-go-round.

The problem is that the world we idealize is complete fantasy, we know it, and if we are also logical people, we fight these day-dreamy tendencies. Even as we follow them and are beat up as a result of them. It seems to always be a harsh lesson.

Although, to be honest, although I'd LIKE to call myself a "Romantic", I'm not sure I have a romantic bone left in my body. I've always wanted to experience a romantic carriage ride along a byway lined with either spring apple blossoms or the bright colors of fall. And I've always dreamed of romantic evenings of fine dining and wine, of long trail rides and watching the sunset amidst the mountains, watching the sun rise over the pounding of the ocean waves. Not alone, but with someone else. Someone special.

But I don't care about those things anymore. They're nice images, sure, but they're superficial. I've seen a Pacific ocean sunrise, and it was gorgeous, but not enough to base my life on. And I've seen a sunset in Sedona, Arizona, and I'll never experience another like it...but it hasn't changed my life. I've never had that romantic carriage ride, but I think I can live and die without it. And fine dining...been there, done that. It's nice, but it doesn't define me. Trail rides...they're just dusty and dirty and fun! THOSE maybe DO define me!

None of that is the point, though. The information I read is not new to me, although it WAS revealing in a sense, for it has appealed to my cynacism. It's made me realize that I'm not a true romantic anymore. My rose-colored glasses were shattered long ago, and I haven't had any good daydreams for a very long time. I'm not sure I even know how to dream anymore.

And therin is the revelation; I have to wonder if my discernment came to a halt or at least has been retarded by the very reality of the life experience that has formed me. I've lost my idealism, and my sense of romanticism. I don't look at religious life as a way to "save" me, or as an ideal, or a perfect lifestyle. In fact, I see it with a kind of dread, of knowing that I'd have to live with OTHER PEOPLE and deal with their issues. I grew up in a small family and by the time we parted, I seriously hated them all.

When I was choosing a college, I considered finding one that I could drive to - at a distance that would inhibit my return. And in college, I purposefully found ways NOT to come home for holidays. God had other plans and saved me from such plans, but my desire to distance myself from my own family was a desire that didn't go away.

When I look at religious life, then, I look at my family, and realize that the same kind of people and issues might well be present there...but multiplied in number. I have no illusions about that. And it's something I've ALWAYS realized. And maybe it terrifies me.

Now, I've been a single woman for a very long time, and I've enjoyed being single, and I have absolutely no interest in dating. I like guys just fine; as friends, as relatives, as superiors, etc. I like the idea of marriage, but I'm not sure I'd ever be marriage material. I think I've been too damaged. And I truly wonder if I've been too damaged not just by what I've survived, but by my own choices, to really find fulfillment in religious life. I wonder if I'm completely unsuited.

Folks, this is a world that doesn't just harbor creates us. It destroys Vocations. And sometimes those who are Called destroy their OWN Vocations through their own volition.

I often wonder if I'm one of those people.

One thing I think I can honestly say...I haven't romanticized religious life. I've gone in the opposite direction. My problem is trying NOT to see it as a whole, but just to focus on what's directly in front of me. My tendency is to look at all the disillusionment, and all the problems, and all the reality, and be overwhelmed by it such that I walk away. What I need to do is to just live in the present and take the next step. My biggest wall is the disillusionment I have in almost everything.

And right there, I think that's where the Cross comes in. I see this as my personal Cross. I can't put it down, but maybe I can come to understand it and feel the wood and the splinters and even identify the species of tree from which it was made. That knowledge doesn't change the fact that it weighs me down and that the ultimate goal is Calvary. I can call it whatever I want and philosophize about it, but the important thing is the here and now, and taking the next bloody step. I have to remember Whose face is before me, in Whose steps I follow.

It's not about what I think or believe or expect. It's about the next thing. When Jesus was crucified, although He saw His entire Passion even BEFORE his conception, He lived His Passion in every moment. He did not allow himself to pontificate about each and every thing before it happened. He sweated blood in the Garden, but knew that redemption was not found in philosophy, but in action. In His blood.

No, as much as I wear my heart on my sleeve, I don't think I'm a romantic anymore. I wish I could be, but I can't. I face things expecting the worst, and have found such a position to be safe, but maybe too much so that it has paralyzed me because I've been exsanguinated by too much reality.

It's hard to know that one may very well return to a situation worse from that which one has already escaped. It's hard to realize that the family that God has called one to may very well be one that embodies the worst of one's own family, and that this can't be known at only a glance. And it's hard to know that one must give up EVERYTHING in order to jump into such a fire.

People may wonder why I've agonized so much over my Vocation, whatever it truly is; I suggest that wondering is in vain. I know I've been damaged, but I've denied it for a long time, wanting to be "normal". Yet I've spoken with Sisters who lament the reality of our culture today. Unfortunately, I am not an anomaly. I'm just an old anomoly.

Romance is a wonderful thing. But for some of us, it's just a shattered ideal, long lost in a world of disillusionment. The hearts on our sleeves are bleeding out and we don't even know where to find the doctors who could save us.