Friday, October 31, 2008
And yet, God calls us into being, out of eternity, and holds us in existance. He gives us definition, He calls us to our Mission, and seeks to draw us to Him, into Him, into a depth of being we can't even fathom and few even consider to plumb.
Several years ago, when I lived in Mexico, I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time. Darkness had fallen by the time we made it to the beach, where we removed our shoes and waded into the waves we could barely discern. The faint light of the nearby town didn't touch the vast expanse of beach we had crossed, so I believe the only reason we could see the white foam of the waves as the lapped against the land was due to the light reflected from the stars.
It was as though I stood on the edge of a precipice. The land ended, and before me was an endless void, the last point of earth being the lighthouse far away, signaling to any passing ships.
We couldn't see anything but darkness; we couldn't even see where the ocean met the sky. We only knew where we ended and the ocean began. I can still hear the crashing of the waves when I remember that night.
I've never felt so small and finite as when I stood there on the edge of the ancient ocean. And even though I knew that fathoms away we would find Australia, it was an act of faith to believe it, for the depths of the darkness seemed to swallow up everything and threatened to swallow us, too.
I'll never forget it, and I'll never stop being grateful for the lesson. When I want to remember who I am in relation to God, that was it: "Adoro Meet God 101".
Often, I've written of this pilgrimage that is our life on earth, and just yesterday I posted the "Letter to Diognetus" that addressed this very thing. We are citizens of Heaven, but for now, bound to the earth. We are to bring the Kingdom of God everywhere we go, and live as these citizens, holding a high moral standard. From the very beginning, as Christians, we have stood out, acting responsibly in our civic duties, but remaining aloof from the winds of change, buffeted about, but refusing to give in to decadent cultures that have come and gone in the last 2,000 years. We have inherited a great treasure, but one that much of the world has chosen to dismiss, preferring shiny baubles that have or will turn to dust, for immediate gratification seems much more rewarding than living a life of discipline and holiness.
I'll confess that sometimes, I wonder why I'm here, and why God chose me from eternity. I remember my teenage years, where my broken family struggled so much. When we first moved to Minnesota after our parent's divorce, my brother and I both faced interior battles. Mine, typical of young women, was turned inward as I contemplated taking my own life, and my brother, typical of young men, turned his anger outward. I only recently learned of the workings of his mind and I pray he never learn those of mine; for I had truly wanted to die. It was a true miracle that kept me from performing the act on the very night I had chosen.
Celebrating Life and Death
Tomorrow we celebrate the Feast of All Saints, and on Sunday, the Feast of All Souls, so it is natural to take this time to contemplate death. It is natural to mourn those who have gone before us and our own mortality as well. It would do us well to, if we can, stand at the edge of the ocean and realize how finite is our being, how temporary our existance...and how eternal are our souls.
So it is natural that tonight, on this Vigil, I have been thinking about life and death and wondering about my own worth in this world. I know I am called to something; were I not, I would not be present. I know that the people I meet every day are called into being and loved dearly by God; were they not, they would not exist.
Yet, I have come full circle in some ways. On one hand, in looking back upon my life, I am excited by what God has done, and on the other hand, I'm just tired of constantly searching. In some ways, I think that if I were informed I had a terminal illness, I'd celebrate the news, knowing that soon I'd be at the end of this pilgrimage.
The earth is not my home; I've seen enough of it and I've done enough to realize that there is nothing here for me. So many fantasy stories speak of people who are or become immortal; all I can think is that these stories must have been written by atheists. The idea of mortal immortality is akin to Hell; for this was the very reason God our Father banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Have you recently read Genesis? If not, look it over; God banished them so that they would not eat of the Tree of Life, for had they done so, they could not have been redeemed. They would have lived forever in their fallen state!
So it is that on nights like this I both lament and praise my mortality. On one hand, I am happy to be alive, for life is such a gift, but on the other hand, each day of life is another day outside of God. Another day to sin. Another day of struggle. The battle becomes so tiresome, especially when I realize my weakness and inability to overcome it.
I thank God for my life, and the lives of those of all I know, and all those I have yet to meet. And I thank God for sending His only Son to redeem us, and I thank God for the ability to participate in that redemption. To give our "fiat". To bring others to Him. And for the strength to go on as long as necessary, for every day is a testament to God's Glory. Every breath comes from Him. Every heartbeat is shared blood.
No longer do I see death as I did as a teenager; now I see it for what it is, and I both welcome and dread it. For death is violent by nature, but leads to the eternal embrace of God IF we are prepared; and the road that leads to God is a life well-lived. A life that is not about us, but about others, but only lived well in relation to the Cross.
We can't avoid the violence of death just as we can't avoid the violence of life. They go together, and ONLY make sense when we can see how the suffering of Christ united them both and gave meaning to our suffering.
Clearly, tonight I am in a melancholy mood as I wonder about why I am on this earth and what contribution I could possibly have. It is a temptation to me to fall into the despair of my teenage years and think that my life is worth nothing, and that this dust that makes up my physical being should be dispersed. Were it not for the miracle that stayed my hand so long ago, perhaps my thoughts would go there again.
My temptation; the value of my life?
My greatest temptation, truly, is to consider myself through worldly terms; but to consider myself according to God raises the scale and removes it from my jurisdiction. To do so makes me consider others and the value of their lives. We can ONLY know ourselves through knowing others...we can only know God through knowing ourselves. The judgment is objective, outside of us. And who would condemn one's neighbor, or one's friend, when one knows the mercy of God?
Every life has meaning. Every single one. Born...or unborn. Every single life.
Each of us has significance, even if we don't believe it. God loves us.
God loves YOU. If you are reading this, He has brought YOU into this world and holds you in existance because, when His Son died upon the Cross, He decided YOU were worth it. Believe it. Embrace it. And love Him that much more.
God bless you all.
Just in case you were wondering about how all this stuff works...go to the above post.
I'm still learning myself. Typically I've noticed that if I am going to a post to respond to a comment, there is another link to someone else's post, so I always assumed it was automatically happening. I've tried using a linkback feature of some sort, but it just did something weird so I gave up.
Or, if you link to someone in your own post, is it supposed to automatically show a link at the bottom of the original post? I dunno!
I'm so technically non-savvy that maybe I shouldn't be allowed to use the computer.
I actually created this post by clicking on "create a link" at the bottom of Father's post. So...look what I just learned!
Thursday, October 30, 2008
who abides in the
shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress,
my God in whom I trust"
~ Psalm 91
It might be a temptation to vote for the candidate who SEEMS to be winning, but really, it ain't over 'till it's over. We are called to vote for LIFE. No, none of the options truly fit that, but it is clear that we as Catholics CANNOT vote for Obama, for he has vowed to make abortion a "right" in this country, which will not only make life impossible for babies yet to be born, but will overwhelmingly harm women as they won't even have to go to a licensed doctor to butcher their children! Yes, we do need to consider the poor, but if the poor are not first considered through their right to live, how can any program flourish? All natural rights arrive from the basic one...the right to life. And NO WAR in PRESENT or HISTORY has taken as many lives as those taken by abortion. And don't even suggest that those who vote for life don't provide for those who have it. I grew up on welfare, and Obama's tax increases will likely put me there again. He has denigrated we, the working class, for being such, for being less educated, and for not having been born on the coasts and into the elite class. He has denigrated the kind of woman I would be if I were a mother; a hockey mom who would not only HAVE a child with developmental disabilities, but would consider ADOPTING one. (I am the product of two "defective" parents). And do NOT get in between me and the moose or caribou in my gunsights! Or the elk! Do you know how many people you can feed (and keep warm) through those animals? Pioneer women UNITE!
Any vote for Obama is a personal affront to me and all I stand for. And I believe I was raised in a Democratic family, as was common to Catholics. I don't care what your political allegiance happens to be these days; open your eyes and vote a well-formed conscience, consistent with GOD'S laws...not the winds of "change".
Sacred or Secular?
The image above is a photograph I took just this last Monday, in Cincinnati. I was standing under the shelter of and among the columns of the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains, looking towards City Hall.
See how tall the tower of City Hall looms? It is a beautiful building, revealing incredible architecture, a representation of secular Government, and there, high above, we see a ticking clock. Ironic, isn't it, that the towers are all under a cross? And yet, our politicians seem to know nothing of the Cross, but see it only as an adornment to be used or tossed aside at will.
See also the tall Greek columns, which hold the roof of the Cathedral under which I stood, only one Cathedra, representative of many more, and a power much higher than ANY secular government. In St. Paul, the Cathedral of St. Paul is built upon a hill which overlooks the State Capitol; symbolic of God's Dominance of all government.
So we must all remember, even as we think that the outcome of this election is obvious, that God is in charge, and even if we feel small in the face of great odds, we remain in the shelter of the Almighty. No matter what comes our way, we MUST remember that we are citizens of Heaven, not of this earth, and this is something to consider as we head to the polls.
Below is the Letter to Diognetus (source linked in the title), a fairly short work written in early Church history; and even though Christianity has been fractured over time, I do believe that the message contained is one that all who claim to be Christian is bound to recognize. Use it to examine your conscience and examine your vote; if you aren't going to the polls considering yourself to be doing so as a child of God and citizen of Heaven, you ought not go to the polls at all. If you can't define yourself according to the article below, you most certainly can't claim to be a Christian.
LETTER TO DIOGNETUS
"Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.
And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.
[Note: "They do not expose them" refers to the common practice of killing "defective children" by leaving them on a hillside, allowing them to die "naturally" if they do not meet their society's standard of normality.]
They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.
To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.
Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body's hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself."
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Fast forward 2,000 years, to a fledgling nation that has only recently celebrated her 200th anniversary. A country founded by Protestants, with a history of persecuting Catholics, now finds herself in a quandry; very few Christians of any faith are able to speak the Truth.
And its our own darn fault.
Because the government is giving us money to hush up and not be a thorn in their side. Because it's essentially hush money, the 501K tax-exempt status that we "enjoy". The very status that forces bishops and priest to tiptoe around the true moral issues, and avoid denouncing mightily the greatest heresies and moral dangers of our day, and the perpetrators and leaders of those great highways to Hell.
I say....let the tax exempt status go! Let it go! Yes, we'll suffer, parishes will close, and "Catholics" will get ticked off and actually leave the church building when they finally are able to hear that it's not possible to vote for Obama and remain a Catholic in good standing. One Bishop has taken the step to speak out, and he's "put the Church at risk of losing their tax-exempt status".
I fail to see the risk! Do we worsip the almighty dollar, or the Almighty God? Are we putting our faith in the IRS, or do we have a Faith we are willing to die for?
There is no middle ground. We NEED to speak up. And if we hadn't given in to this hush money from the government a long time ago, well, we'd be in a much better place now, morally speaking.
The Church Fathers wouldn't have accepted tax-exempt status, for they would have recognized it for what it was. In our country, we haven't, and now we're paying a much higher penalty. Souls are literally being lost because the Bishops have been effectively muzzled by the IRS.
It's long past time to wake up and make a decision; bury our heads and sell our souls to the IRS....or speak out and state the plain Truth?
Let's face it; we have to suffer for what we love. We have to suffer for our Faith, and we're going to be doing so anyway in the coming years. The war has already been declared and we're all wandering around, oblivious. We are a country that has forgotten the face of God, and we strut around in enlightened arrogance as we systematically slaughter our children and enter into relationships that can never support life...not physical, not spiritual.
Things aren't getting any better, and as long as we're completely muzzled, they won't get any better.
I'm quite certain that our politicians would be of much higher quality if the churches were allowed to criticize them by name.
And that's all I have to say about that. I'm going to bed. It's God's Church, and His country...He can deal with it. But we better be praying...all of us, or we're going to wake up to paying for "freedom of religion" just as we're now being paid to keep silent.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Marcus Grodi introduced her by saying, "This is Rosalind Moss as you've never seen her before..." and there she mounted the steps to the stage, approaching the podium to thunderous applause and a standing ovation, for she was wearing the Postulant Habit of her new Community, Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel's Hope.
It was a moment in history; the foundress of a new Congregation, a convert from Judaism and Evangelical Christianity completing a journey and a fairy-tale love story. And we were there to see it.
She stood up there in a simple black dress, belt, and white veil. And proceeded to give a wonderful talk, at the end of which she had no problem addressing the scandal of the Cross, the call to martyrdom we are all facing, and calling all priests to conversion, for the liturgy is not theirs...but the Church's.
A friend of Sr. Rosalind was in my group and had introduced me to her earlier in the day, after they had embraced in greeting, old friends that they were. Although I've seen photos of her and have heard her on the radio, I've never seen her in person so didn't even recognize her in her habit. She has a diminuitive stature and a gracious persona, and might I say....she is like a mother, (even upon an initial greeting)?
Sr. Rosalind explained that she and the three others who were helping her to begin had ordered the black dresses from an Amish (or Mennonite? ) catalogue, and initially had some hand-made white veils. But upon visiting the Nashville Dominicans, they told her, "You look Amish! We need to make you Catholic!" And so the dear Dominican Sisters made them white veils which pass just below the shoulder, over a band that covers the hair, and gave them black belts.
For now, the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel's Hope are in limbo; they are awaiting a new Archbishop and can't move forward without him. Please pray for this fledgling community, that a new (Good, Holy) Shepherd will come to them so that they may proceed with their mission.
Sr. Rosalind revealed that she has had over 300 inquiries about her community, for indeed, she hopes to flood the streets of America with women in habits, spreading the Gospel. She hopes to "restore the hem to the floor and the habit to the world."
I pray that this mission succeeds, and believe that she is exactly the woman to do it.
God bless her, the future Mother Miriam, Foundress of the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel's Hope.
Please keep them and all those discerning their Vocations in your most heartfelt prayers.
Anyway, it was a wonderful trip, although I'm totally wiped out. You know how it is when you travel...you never sleep as well (or as long) when you're in a different place.
I arrived in the "Queen City of the Midwest" as she is called, on Thursday evening, having met a native Kentuckian who was seated next to me. He told me about Skyline Chili and a rib place called Montgomery's (wasn't it?). In any case, I knew that a friend, my hostess, was meeting me at the airport and had said dinner would be waiting for us. Which was great...I hadn't eaten since around 11 am or earlier that morning. I was wondering if another friend would also be meeting me; there was something that J., my hostess, had said that made me wonder, but I figured, no, he was too busy. Guys who dedicate their lives to the Church have far more important things to do than go to the airport to greet some woman from Minnesota.
But sure enough, as I rounded a corner and emerged from a hallway approaching Baggage Claim, there was a very tall priest, grinning widely, standing next to our other grinning friend. And yes, I WAS surprised, although I'd suspected something was up.
You have to understand; this trip to Cincinnati had originally been arranged under the auspices of surprising the good Father when I happened to "show up" at the Conference. Well, we ended up telling him in advance, and so the tables were turned...and I was the one who ended up being surprised! And...I'll admit that I was very touched that Father S. (whom I met in person in July) would take time out of his busy life to greet me at the airport and spend time with all of us that evening.
We arrived at my dear hostesses' home, where I met two of her friends, J and M., (now mine as well) when they walked in the door with dinner...Skyline Chili! People, you can make this at home. And you know, it was perfect for me....mine had no beans! This chili, famous to Cincinnati, is served over spaghetti noodles, then garnished with chopped onions and cheddar cheese. It was wonderful! And as I make beanless chili myself, well, now I know I can serve it over spaghetti. It can also be ordered with beans and other things.
See what one learns when one travels?
The evening was spent, all five of us enjoying dinner, beer, and conversation, much laughter, and excitement over the Conference we were heading towards on Friday.
Maybe Father Schnippel will speak about the joke we played on him that evening. Not that I would ever play a practical joke on a Priest...nope...not me! (I'm so glad I live in Minnesota....)
On Friday morning, we ladies headed out to Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center for Mass with the good Father, and I have to tell you; if you are Catholic and you are going to the Cincinnati area, you have GOT to go there. The mosaics, the relics, the chapels....hmmm....can I go on retreat there? Architectural beauty, Perepetual Adoration, true spiritual refreshment, and stuff I think I can show you only in photos...when I get them developed. (No, I don't have a digital camera.)
We caravaned to Coming Home Network (CHN)'s Conference, "Deep in History" from there, arriving late afternoon, where one friend quickly went to work helping one of the vendors, and the rest of us wandered around, enjoying ourselves, chatting, etc. I met fellow blogger Chris Osgood, who was also attending (please keep this potential future priest in your prayers!), and we spoke for awhile. I don't know if there were other Catholic bloggers present; if so, I did not meet them, but we also hadn't purchased the meal plan so didn't mix as much with the other people who were attending.
Saturday was filled with topics, and Sunday it ended with a panel discussion. As I have more to say about this, I'll save it for another post, but suffice to say that it was a wonderful event, you people NEED to go to this if you are at all able to do so (it was literally a gift for me to be able to go), and if nothing else, order the CD's or DVD's that are available from CHN.
We didn't see much of Columbus, but as the hotel was situated close to downtown and a large mall, outdoor shopping area, etc, well, during free hours my new friend, J. from Tennessee roamed around, got coffee, chatted, people watched, and cracked each other up.
Sunday, after the panel discussion, we spoke briefly with now Sister Rosalind Moss, and she was gracious enough to take a picture with us. (I will write more on this in its own post).
We drove back to Cincinnati while Father headed out to another event, and spent our last evening together pretty much just laughing hysterically. Is there ever a better way to pass the time with someone?
Monday, J and M departed for Tennesee, while my hostess and I headed out to meet Father. That morning Father gave us (especially me, as I had never been there) a tour of the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains in downtown Cincinnati. From the exterior, I'll admit it doesn't look like a Cathedral, but inside, one must admit that the transcendant beauty has deep theological significance...and I love the Blessed Sacrament Chapel where we attended Father's Mass that evening. I will hopefully have a photo of this to post. The motif of chains is found everywhere.
And finally...I have to admit that while most Cathedrals are very feminine in accoutrements and design, St. Peter in Chains is very masculine, which has given me a bit of a different perspective for any future conversations about Church Architecture.
We also traveled to (Covington?) Kentucky, just across the river, to the Mother of God Cathedral which was Gothic in style, flying buttresses, stained glass...back to the "feminine" style of Catholic architecture. If you get the chance, go there, check out the stained glass, the rose windows, and the incredible paintings in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.
We also visited, in Cincinnati, the oldest Catholic Church, St. Mary's. We happened to enter during Adoration but while Father took time to pray, J. and I wandered around the church, admiring the art, the stations, the design, etc. They have a very life-like Pieta there, and I couldn't help but stop and gaze upon the wounds of Christ and the anguished face of His Mother. I didn't even attempt to take any photos for fear that the flash would disturb those present, or, even worse....do any damage to the condition of these works. (Often flash photography isn't allowed as light can damage paintings, etc). I didn't see any signs prohibiting photography but it's something I've been sensitive to ever since I lived in Mexico. That...and it just seems wrong, somehow, to take photos in a church. I'm not a tourist; I'm Catholic, and this parish, while it wasn't local to me, was home, too.
I can't explain it; something about photographing churches makes me feel like I'm exploiting something.
Last evening, we met for a Blognic, which ended up being very small, but the company was incredible and I finally made the acquaintance of occasional commenter Wayne, and his beautiful family, as well as another friend of Father's. My only regret was that I wish I hadn't been so tired! I think we all were, but the children present energized us with their antics...and...well, let's just admit that children are adorable and always light up a room! Even a German Beer Hall!
This morning J. dropped me off at the airport, where my singular goal (other than checking in and getting through the security checkpoint) was to get a large cup of coffee. Yup. Minnesota time, I got up at about 4 am. A little earlier. Sure, Eastern time the clock said almost 5 am, but let's get real; I live in MN and my body knows the "real" time.
Well, as always I had "get-home-itis" and if I could have pushed the plane or did anything to make it go faster, I would have. As it was I had to be content to be delayed 25 minutes or so as they had to de-ice the aircraft (since it had sat overnight and frost had formed on it). I have friends who work as "ramp rats" (as they are called in the biz), so I knew the procedure, although this was the first time I'd seen it in practice.
Anyway, long post (yeah, yeah, I know...as always), but it was a wonderful weekend. Tomorrow it's back to normal, back to work/study/work/study/work.
I pray all of you had a great weekend as well.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Blogging will either be light or fully non-existant until next Tuesday, and as such, I'm enabling comment moderation.
I hope you all have a wonderful rest of the week and weekend.
Please keep all travelers in your prayers.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
But of course, just as I entered the office and sat down at my computer, someone else would be in the office looking for me for an entirely different problem. At one point, I was quite literally trying to juggle 5 different people and their needs at one time.
And I even now have a feeling that it isn't "over". I'm thankful to be safely home, and tomorrow, I leave for Cincinnati. And I find that there is yet another concern in need of prayer, for one of my friends whom I'm looking forward (hopefully) to seeing this weekend, also has had a rough evening: it seems that Fr. Schnippel's Grandfather is in his last hours. Please keep him and all his family in your prayers.
I've also come home to a message from my mother; a couple weeks ago, my uncle had a stroke which left him paralyzed on his left side. He does have the potential of recovery, however apparently today he fell and injured his ankle. My Mom didn't know if it was broken or not.
So it seems that today has been a bad one for many.
This evening, before everything began, I ended up not having time (or making time, more properly) to go to the chapel for Vespers and other prayers to offer for the evening. While I was in the midst of all of it, my frustration mounting, as once again, I sat at my computer to compose a "to do list" for my supervisor, once again I was called out to the front of the office as a catechist "had something for me".
"Right", I thought to myself. More work! Another weird issue! Something else I don't have the time to deal with...and already I was feeling overwhelmed at all the stuff hitting the proverbial fan.
Grumbling to myself, I stood up and said in a whiny tone, "I can ONLY do ONE thing at a time!" I wasn't seriously squealing at my catechist and was trying to use a joking tone, but I do think it fell flat.
And there was one of my Catechists with her class, holding one of their projects for the evening. As one of the boys handed a jeweled treasure chest to me, the Catechist said that they wanted to give me a gift in hopes that my load would be lightened, I'd have a better night, and I'd have a good trip.
As I held this gift in my hand, I was completely humbled; here I'd been grumbling and not even wanting to go out to where I was called to go, and even with my bad attitude, here was quite literally a treasure box. I thanked the children and exclaimed over the box, and upon opening it, found, pasted inside, the Guardian Angel prayer.
You may not think this was significant, but today, as I do most days, I asked my Guardian Angel for help in getting through the day, and for assistance in helping all the people who would come my way. And I'd also had a discussion with another Catechist about Guardian Angels.
And there, in what was maybe one of the darkest moments of the evening, I was handed a treasure chest containing that very prayer.
I can't help but think my Guardian Angel was involved, as were the Angels of the children who created this gift...children whose own Angels, we are told in scripture, are always in the Presence of and look upon the Face of God.
And I can't help but see the juxtaposition of my own Pride that had made me nearly disregard the gift and consolation God had waiting for me in spite of my grumbling.
You'd think that would have been the end of my attitude, though, wouldn't you? But no...then I started wondering at WHY everything was going so wrong. I knew I should have prayed Evening Prayer, but I hadn't. I could have...but didn't, thinking to do it "later". "Later" never came.
So there, in my office as I knelt on the floor to pick something up, instead I picked up my Liturgy of the Hours and prayed Vespers. The words were illuminating as I saw that, had I read them, I would have handled the evening better for they spoke to what we were going through. Then I began to blame myself....things were going badly because I hadn't prayed Vespers.
When I had a moment, while we were cleaning up, I ducked into the Church to pray for a moment, and that thought again crept into my head. But there was a gentle response from Our Lord, who asked me, "Do you think you have that much power? That your flimsy words of prayer would make the difference between those things happening or not?"
I knew He was right...prayer has power, and it CAN change things, but more often, it changes the way we handle trials that come our way. When we keep our eyes on Jesus, no matter what happens, we still suffer, but the way we handle that suffering is based upon the strength of Jesus.
Tonight, I was trying to get by on my own strength; had I taken time out to pray, I would likely have done a better job of leaning on Jesus to get me through the evening.
As we see, it wasn't just myself who had a difficult evening; Father's Grandfather (and thus that entire family), and my Uncle are undergoing far more difficult trials.
Don't ever give up on prayer; perhaps the mountains aren't what is meant to be moved: maybe it's ourselves. Maybe WE are the mountains.
Monday, October 20, 2008
In the Liturgy of the Hours, there is a letter from St. Augustine about prayer. He speaks of the need for prayer, even though our Lord and God already knows our needs, and simply wants us to "exercise our desires through our prayers, so that we may be able to receive what he is preparing to give us." He admonishes us to remember the words of St. Paul to "Pray without ceasing".
Prayer is a conversation with God, a dialogue, if you will, involving alternate periods of activity and silence. Or perhaps it consists of simple wordless companionship; for even those who cannot speak become friends in the depths of comfortable silence. Prayer is this, and more; it is a language that cannot be written, but is fueled by Love.
But what is Love?
"Love is a unifying virtue which takes upon itself the torments of its beloved lord. It is a fire reaching through to the inmost soul. It transform the lover into the one loved. More deeply, love intermigles grief..."
Is that not profound? He is clear; we cannot separate Love from the Cross. I know people who flee the image of Our Suffering Lord, and they flee suffering in their own lives, for it is as if they fear to face the cost of the love that frees them.
I can't say that I'm any different from any of them.
We all fear suffering; just yesterday, I was wondering if what I truly fear is love? Or could it be that I know that to give myself over to Love means that I will enter into the depths of suffering? Why is it that we cannot see that by embracing suffering we really are entring into the depths of Love?
St. Paul of the Cross reveals to seeking souls the beauty in that suffering, the love waiting to embrace us. And I can't deny that when I look upon the Cross, I don't see something to flee; I see someone that draws me to Mercy, not just as a virtue but Mercy personified. I find myself wanting to catch every drop of that Precious Blood, to bind those terrible wounds, to weep upon the feet of the Savior who is raised up before me and draws me to Him. I know that I have been drenched in His Blood out of my own vile, willful actions, and all of that He gave me freely, without anger, without hesitation.
Because He found me worthy of redemption. He thought I was worth it. Even though it was my sins that placed him on the Cross, He called me out of eternity so that I could be forever in His Divine Embrace.
This recognition of Profound Love is life-changing: I want to reach out to Him and remove those awful thorns from his head, one by one if necessary, and even as I imagine such an act, I see, paradoxically, that were it not for those thorns I would not be in a position to desire mercy from Mercy Himself, nor would I have the opportunity to be pierced by those very same thorns and united to Him through our intermingled blood. It is His Mercy that draws us to Him, and through Love, prompts not just repentance, but mercy towards Our Lord! We cannot help but seek to console Him in His Passion, and in so doing, we cannot help but be drawn into the depths of His suffering.
It is only there that we can truly know Christ; and it is only through Him that we can truly know ourselves. And it is the gentle dialogue of prayer that binds us in a loving friendship that far exceeds any suffering that can ever fall upon our shoulders. Prayer is the first step; prayer leads us to Love, the Cross reveals that Love, and it is prayer that enables us to express through a myriad of ways, the Love we offer in return.
I'm not a theologian, so I can't advance this idea without some sort of fear, but it seems to me that Love, Prayer, and the Cross are both actions of and reflections of the Trinity. Or are they simply echoes of the Trinity that goes outward and then draws us back, in a current we cannot resist if we recognize where our Shores truly lie?
Recently I wrote a post about the images that have corrupted me, and I both entered into and willingly pursued that corruption. I lamented the images that I can't unsee, for they have changed me forever.
But there is something even MORE compelling than those vile, satanic memories that have been tattooed into my moral fibres; and that is the visage of the Suffering Servant, nailed to the Cross, bleeding out of His personal sacrifice. I can't know Jesus and what He did without His Blood being personal. Now that I can look upon the bloodiest of crucifixes and see the depths of Divine Love, I can't unsee what I've seen...and it has changed me forever.
I am still corrupted, and I give myself willingly to the corruption of sin, for I cannot seem to break those bonds and flee their very shadow. Yet I know that even as I bear the Blood of Our Savior upon my very hands, there is Hope, for my Love has been Crucified in my place, and THAT is a Love that breaks chains if I could only speak out to condemn them.
But Christ compels me not only to praise His very name, but to enter into deepest dialogue with Him, to return the Love that He has so willingly given me, and ultimately, to embrace the Cross of suffering so that I will know Him and Love Him for eternity.
Would that I could even come close to living up to my own words.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Although I've been compared to Gov. Palin, I don't look anything like her and won't be moose hunting in Ohio. Nor will I be stumping for votes. Nor have I ever been Miss Alaska or Miss Minnesota....hmm....the more I think about it, the less I seem like her!
So let's move on!
Rather, I'll be sitting next to (or at least in the general vicinity of) the local Priest Celebrity in Cincinnati, Fr. Kyle Schnippel, who is calling the first Called By Name Blognic!
The good Father gives the details on his blog:
Next weekend, some friends will be in town, and heading back out on Tuesday, October 28. Hence, Monday evening, October 27th is open for the first Called by Name Blognic!
8:30 to 10:00 PM, location: Hoffbrauhaus Newport, across from Newport on the Levee. We'll be in the side dining room instead of the main beer hall. Come one and all!
Hmmm....did Fr. Schnippel just refer to me as a "friend"? I'm flattered! And can't wait to see who else will be there...
See you in a week!
"For pride imitates loftiness of mind, hwile you are the one God, highest above all things. What does ambition seek, except honor and glory, while you alone are to be honored above all else and are glorious forever?"
It is this passage that defines my very state in life right now, and which, ironically (or not so ironically when one considers the mystery of God in one's life), came up yesterday in conversation with a friend.
A couple years ago I lamented that I was stuck; I was in a job I hated, a career that was going nowhere. When I'd begun I saw a career path in front of me, I "knew" where I was going, and was excited that my background was going to propel me into a very successful future. It wasn't a future I'd originally forseen for myself, but it was one that seemed to arise from God's Divine Providence. But over time, the job wore on me, roadblocks went up, and the "shiny future" no longer looked like something I wanted. In fact, I saw it for what it was, and realized that I would not find happiness there.
But I didn't want to go back to the careers of my background, and in any case, I'd shut the doors that would have lead back to them, for I'd realized that they weren't a source of happiness. In fact, they were quite literally dead ends. Unfortunately, my time in that job I had begun to hate, also effectively prevented my return to any possible routes, for I'd been out of my degree field and original areas of experience for too long; I had rendered myself obsolete.
I'd unknowingly comitted professional suicide.
I was stuck. I couldn't move forward, I couldn't move laterally, every day was making me realize that my future had an Axe in it and not a promotion, and basically...the only thing I really had was God.
That's how I met Him face-to-face, so to speak, I think. That's the crisis that drew me to Him; I didn't know who I was, where I was going, or who I was supposed to be. In fact, I was on my knees in what I saw as the ashes of my life, once again. But let's face it; that's the BEST way to learn who we are and where we really belong. That's what made me start asking the right questions, redefine "happiness" according to a proper standard, and subsequently understand that life isn't about what we do...it's about who we are called to be.
One of my biggest laments was that all through high school and college I'd been very DRIVEN towards my career goals. I knew what I'd come from and what I desperately was trying to escape, I knew what I wanted to do, I knew I had a future, and I thought I was in control of it. And sure enough, everything I touched turned to gold: doors opened, gates parted, and my dreams (really quite humble ones, if glorious in my eyes) were on the verge of being realized. And really, they WERE realized.
Unfortunately, they lost their sheen, and like the Prodigal Son, I, the Prodigal Daughter, found myself eating muck and begging for my bread.
It's been a repetetive pattern in my life, but it was the last manifestation that was finally definitive; each crash was really a new ascent. A new purification. Each disaster, I now see, was bringing me closer to God.
To be perfectly honest, while my goals were truly humble in this world as I did not desire fame or political power or anything like that, I WAS still ambitious, and that ambition was truly a way of seeking glory for myself. I wasn't doing anything for God or out of love for God; everything I did was centered upon myself and what I wanted and what I thought I needed.
In short, it was my quite unholy opinion that I thought the world revolved around me, and whenever it didn't, I became upset and demanded that such "injustice" should change.
No, I never truly realized that this was my position, and I never voiced such an idea; in fact, I abhored the thought! All of us realize, rationally, that the world does not revolve around us, but when we get to the depths of our wounded souls, we have to face the fact that, if we are not living in reference to the Sacrifice of the Cross, then we are living for ourselves. With that kind of flawed philosophy, the only truth is that we make ourselves the center of the world.
We will never find happiness if we define ourselves according to our own scales, for we can ONLY know ourselves through knowing others, and we can only discover who we are called to be if we are willing to embrace the Mystery of the Cross - and in fact, let the blood of the Cross be mingled with our own blood and sweat.
Yesterday, in speaking with a friend, I revealed to her that I still don't know my future. I'm no longer in the job that made me so miserable, but the position I'm in now is definitely not my "calling". I do recognize a certain Call in my co-workers, which they are fulfilling beautifully. They are enthusiastic and passionate, and God's hand is on them. Myself...I'm there, I'm taking up space, I'm doing the best I can and I'm learning a lot, but it's not my future. It's a waystation, another purification, but have no fear; it is developing virtues and skills I'd not have in any other way. And it's building relationships that draw me further out of myself, refusing to take me out of the shadow of the Cross. I'm at peace, knowing there's a reason for where I am, and I do truly love the people with whom I work and those I am serving.
A New Future?
I don't see a future for myself, not when I consider my life according to career or material, worldly goals. "Future" is a word that's not really in my vocabulary anymore, for it's an irrelevant term. In fact, when it comes to my material future, I "foresee" disaster only. But it doesn't matter. God has taught me how to re-define my priorities, and even though I still battle with myself in self-love and glory-seeking ambition, it's not what defines me any more. My identity is no longer tied to what I do to pay my bills, but rather, it's in my identity in Christ.
I'm learning to live with reference to God, to know myself through loving others, and to look to the Cross for the answers of my deepest questions.
St. Augustine, one of my dearest and longest-suffering Patrons, really hit the nail on the head in the quote I used, and I love him even more for his honesty. His words still condemn me, but they also reveal, in hindsight, the spiritual journey my life has taken thus far, and remind me to continuously look to honor and glorify God in all things.
As long as we remember that, our own ambitions can be put into their proper place, in deference to God's own will, for He desires only our good, which cannot be separated from the good of the salvation of others.
It's a lesson I'd suffer again to learn...and probably will.
St. Augustine, pray for us!
Thursday, October 16, 2008
So, now that my 2 Midterms have been turned in, and my paper is edited and printed, I can finally bring you the important news from the Catholic world...and believe me, this is stuff you DO NOT want to miss!
First up - PRAYER AND FASTING!
Ignorant Redneck (who isn't so ignorant) is encouraging us to pray and fast for 3 days leading up to the election...and don't let that time limit you. Prayer and fasting even not until then is greatly needed!
Remember the Gospel? Remember where the Apostles were trying to cast out a demon and couldn't, and Jesus came and did? Remember when they asked him why, he said that kind of demon couldn't be cast out except by prayer and fasting?
Well--I suggest that people commit--promise an follow through--to fasting for three days before the election, and praying, maybe the Rosary, maybe the Prayer of St. Michael. Fast and Pray that the election will place into power people who will at least respect life, and the will of God.
Just today I read a quote somewhere: Pray for a country that refuses to pray for itself. So go to IR's post and committ to prayer and fasting! Or, if you can't do that for 3 days (I confess I'm a wimp and can handle a day...beyond that I'm mush.), Then give up chocolate, give up SOMETHING as SOME kind of fast. And Pray, pray, pray! Start now and call it a "mini Lent"!
Thanks, (Not-So)Ignorant Redneck!
VOCATIONS TO THE PRIESTHOOD
I received a message today about a new website promoting Priestly Vocations:
I have recently read an interview given by Monsignor Georges Durand to the French publication “Thérèse de Lisieux.” The monsignor is one hundred years old. During his ministry he spent 27 years at the Basilica at Lisieux and was a good friend of Céline, the sister of St Therese. At the conclusion of the interview the old Monsignor said “Pray fervently to Saint Therese for the priesthood. Pray for priests. We must not bemoan the lack of priests, but act. We must pray for vocations to the priesthood”.
May I respectfully request you to mention this new web site on your blog. It contains wonderful suggestions for Bishops, Priests, Seminarians, Families, Schools and Directors of Vocations.
This web site called http://www.vocationsguidetopriesthood.org/ has positive suggestions for all members of the community.
I sincerely pray that you will visit it and hopefully give it some much needed publicity.
What else is there to say? St. Padre Pio said that the world could better exist without the sun than it can without the Mass. Anything that encourages more men to consider the priesthood is bound to bear fruit!
CATHOLIC WRITERS AND READERS UNITE!
Attention Writers & Readers!
Leoness Books is a newly formed small press specializing in Literary Catholic Writing. Leoness has been created due to the dearth of publishing opportunities for Catholic writers whose work can be described as "Literary, yet artfully overt." Leoness is seeking book-length fiction (both novels and story collections) and narrative non-fiction submissions for their Leoness Book Award, and short stories for their Best Catholic Short Stories, 2010 edition.
Leoness Books is also seeking dedicated readers who are tired of the syrupy genre fiction that Christian publishers attempt to pass off as "real life," who are put off by the poorly written Apocalyptic novels that misrepresent Bible teaching, and disheartened by the plethora of literary options for nearly every subset of humanity, except for devout Catholics seeking quality literature inspired by faith. There are several ways to become involved and ensure Leoness Books’ success. Please visit www.LeonessBooks.com for more information.
I learned today that I was nominated for the Blogger's Choice Awards in the "Best Religious Blog" category. When I finally found my blog, I found that I had a whopping 2 votes....a really long ways behind a couple of atheist blogs. And that just DEFIES logic. While I don't write for awards or to be noticed, I do have a problem with the idea that someone who either hates God or disbelieves in Him such that they base their entire lives and defitions on there not being a God actually has more votes than I do.
Or maybe I'm supposed to be learning the Virtues of Patience and Humility from this. But if not...then feel free to vote for me! (I'm probably about 200 pages back....)
You do have to register to vote, it's painless and minimal (I did it last year), and you can help promote your favorite blogs....or condemn the worse ones! (The latter is literally a category for the worst blog ever, and thank God I haven't been nominated for it!)
Thanks to the person who nominated me...I think that this is the first time that happened!
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
However, given that thus far I've been reading St. Catherine of Siena and have yet to finish "Dialogue", well, let's just say that her words currently have far more impact to date.
To the uninitiated, "Dialogue" is exactly what it claims to be; an earnest conversation between the Holy Soul of St. Catherine and God the Father; a work of approved Private Revelation considered to be one of the greatest and most astounding works in the history of the Church. It is solid doctrine, provided to a Saint who had no means of having acquired such knowledge, and as I am reading it, I have no doubt whatsoever that God himself spoke in His own words.
The work often speaks of the Virtues, and in fact, this topic comes up early and is woven throughout. What struck me, though, was this: we are all given virtues. No, that's not news. But we all have, as a gift at Confirmation, a dominant virtue, and this virtue, fueled by charity (Divine Love, another virtue) is what brings us to all the other virtues. Each of us has a dominant Virtue; Humility, Patience, Faith, Perseverence, Fortitude, Charity, Temperance...it is a gift. Can you understand this? EACH of us, as a GIFT has a dominant virtue...and that is the tool God uses to help us utilize the others.
When I first began reading this, I wondered at my Virtue; what could it be? It was so easy to eliminate them, but then, I realized, even going way back, that God has given me the virtue of Faith. Even if I would doubt this, a couple years ago, a new priest assigned to my parish made note of it in a way I can't deny. I came to know him through Theology on Tap, and he offered to meet with me, seeing my nervousness upon the first presentations I gave to the RCIA class. He was a priest who gave me a certain confidence as I sought to pass on this great Faith we have been given.
He was moved, very suddenly, to cover a parish that was about to lose its priest, and as I said my goodbye to him and wished him well, he placed his hand on my shoulder and thanked me for my witness of faith to him. I was shocked...what had I done or said that was helpful to HIM?
He had the Mass the next evening, which I did not attend, but did get to the church in time for Confession. I'd sent him an email, and as he passed me he thanked me for it, and I headed into the Confession line.
It has been my practice for a long time to go to anonymous Confession, for otherwise I'm tempted to "sugar coat" my sins. And that night was no exception, and I had a particularly difficult sin to confess.
The priests I know have often spoke of the action of the Holy Spirit when they hear Confessions, and when they give their advice. That evening, I confessed what I had to confess, and from the other side of the screen, Father spoke very clearly about the Gift of Faith I had been given, how important it was, and to never stop listening to God through this Gift. I'll never forget his voice or his words as I knelt, surprised, knowing what I deserved for my sin...and yet hearing not just mercy, but receiving edification.
A part of me wonders if Father had seen me get in line and recognized my voice; and if he did, I'm not embarassed, worried, or offended. He said something that resonated, and that went to the heart of what I was doing that day and am doing now. He reminded me that God's mercy does not rest on our wrongs, but rather who He created us to be, and that He gave us Virtues to assist us in reaching Him.
Maybe Faith is my main Virtue...and it's the one that, through Charity, will help me develop all of the others, just as God the Father revealed to St. Catherine of Siena.
Consider the gifts you have been given, and if you don't know your foundational virtue...pray about it. Ask God what He has given you, and once that is revealed, focus on that to help you grow in all the other virtues.
We are given all we need to achieve Sainthood; the only problem is that we lack self-knowledge. If we pray for that, God will be gracious in His blessings; and we can become closer to Him through the very key He provides even before He gives us the rest of the keyring.
What is YOUR Virtue? What is your key?
Turn one...find all the others.
"Wherefore, learn, that, in many cases I give one virtue, to be as it were the chief of the others, that is to say, to one I will give principally love, to another justice, to another humility, to one a lively faith, to another prudence or temperance, or patience, to another fortitude. These, and many other virtues I place, indifferently, in the soul of many creatures; it happens, therefore, that the particular one so placed in the soul becomes the principal object of its virtue; the soul disposing herself, for her chief conversation, to this rather than to the other virtues, and, by the effect of this virtue, the soul draws to herself all the other virtues, which, as has been said, are all bound together in the affection of love....I have not placed them all in one soul, in order that man should perforce, have material love for his fellow."
~ St. Catherine of Siena, "Dialogue", A Treatise on Divine Providence
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
So said, exactly, St. Catherine of Siena.
I am currently reading, for the purpose of writing a paper, "The Dialogue of Saint Catherine of Siena", one of my favorite Saints, and one I know has been interceeding for me for a very long time.
Yet I am constantly struck by the slander against her. There are some who would take the above quote and apply it to their dissident "theology", taking it as their motto as they seek to usurp the laws of God.
How ironic. If any of them bothered to ever read her actual writings or the revelations to her from God, or her questions to God the Father, they would be silenced in complete and total humiliation.
Just a few weeks ago, a woman I know brought St. Catherine into our conversation, and lamented that women today aren't as strong as she was. This particular woman was once a member of a certain religious community that shall remain nameless, but it's one that trumpets worldly and immoral causes such as gay marriage and female priestly "ordination". When I said that I was reading this book, she said that maybe she should as well, for St. Catherine is her patron Saint. I truely hope she does so.
This very same woman was taken aback when I dared to mention that as a woman, St. Catherine was very strong as an example for the women of today in her successful work to bring a Pope into submission to God; for she literally stated that if the Pope remained a single day in France, it was a mortal sin. The woman in question told me, "Well, I don't know about that..." clearly offended by my repetition of this objective occurance in history. But let's just say she's one that can't understand why I would teach children and their parents that there is such a thing as "mortal sin".
Right. I consider Hell to be far more violent than the suggestion that we can offend God in such a way that we sever our relationship with Him.
Since then, I've also come across the blogs or other articles of two (or more) religious sisters who are also comparing St. Catherine of Siena to the dissident and highly mislead (and misleading) Srs. Prejean and Chittister, among others.
What is so shocking to me is that those Sisters aren't even in the same league as St. Catherine of Siena; the ONLY comparison is that they are all female.
The left-leaning spiritual miscreants that have arisen in past years clearly haven't bothered to actually read the words of this great Doctor of the Church; for if they did, they would not DARE to use her name to advance their causes. They try to usurp the name of St. Catherine to support radical feminism; yet if they actually read the revelations, they would realize that St. Catherine was in the world, but not of it, and the last thing she would do is support political and immoral causes, the like of which absorb the time and morality of too many allegedly "religious" women of our age.
This group likes to use the name of St. Catherine because she stood up to the Pope; it was she and St. Bridget of Sweden who brought a close to the Avignon Captivity, and an end to the false Popes, restoring authority to Rome and revealing the true Pope in a time of division. St. Catherine probably saved that Pope's soul, for no sooner had he heeded her words that he was in mortal sin for every day he remained in France, that he returned to Rome and died, hopefully as a loyal son of the Church. A new Pope was elected, unifying the Church once again.
St. Catherine was not a feminazi or a Democrat; she was a holy woman who respected the authority of God and His Vicar, and sought to RESTORE proper Church authority. She was a unifying force, an instrument of God Himself.
She doesn't compare to today's dissidents for one main reason; she was not out for power for herself, but rather, to call a Pope to CONVERSION and restore the Divine Order that had always been intended. She was not looking to change the Church to meet her own worldy purposes, but instead, she understood the Divine Nature of the Supernatural Hierarchy of the Church, and worked within it to restore what was corrupted by sin.
She did not deny sin; she denounced. She is a heroine to women everywhere for she knew what it was to be a woman; and that the Church needs good, holy women in order to bear fruit.
I pray that before I die I will see the good name of St. Catherine of Siena restored, nevermore to be usurped as an unwilling spokesman for immoral causes.
Those who think she challenged doctrine need to read Dialogues and her other works; perhaps it is only through her own words that she will, on behalf of Christ, convert those who seek power and fame as opposed to St. Catherine's clear foundational virtues of humility and obedience.
St. Catherine of Siena...PRAY FOR US, that we will set the whole world on fire!
Do you know, My daughter, who you are and who I am?
You are she who is not; I am He Who is.
- Words of Our Lord to
Saint Catherine of Siena
You Are Basil
You are quite popular and loved by post people.
You have a mild temperament, but your style is definitely distinctive.
You are sweet, attractive, and you often smell good.
What do you think, those of you who know me? Am I Basil?
By the way, avoid these quiz sites, especialy if you're trying to write a paper. It's too easy to do frivolous things and avoid your deadlines. After all...quizzes are MUCH more exciting than discerning the various meanings and context of some ancient Hebrew word.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I've spoken many times about Vocational Discernment, and I stand by everything I've said in the past. But not everyone is going to go through my archives, so I find it necessary to discuss these same issues again, for the benefit of, well...anyone who might benefit.
For some reason, if a man says that he is discerning the priesthood or a woman says she is discerning religious life, the revelation sets off a flurry of pitter-patting hearts already planning on atteding the Ordination or Vows. The very mention of discernment "locks the deal" and certain people become so excitedly agitated at the prospect of a new Priest or Religious that they turn themselves inside-out with joyous expectation.
And I ask you...is this REASONABLE???
After all, if a man or woman comes to you and announces they, respectively, found a girlfriend or a boyfriend, do you immediately go into "wedding organizer" mode and order taffeta and polyester and reserve the Taj Mahal for the party?
For some reason, the very mention of Vocational discernment causes some people to completely lose their minds and assign themselves a role of "Personal Dictator" on behalf of the discerning soul, who can of course seem to hear God's call but apparently doesn't have as much hearing as the person desiring Vocations thinks they should have.
And the Personal Dictator, of course, knows best and appoints themself into the timekeeper's role so as to tell the Discerning Soul what they need to do and when, for if they fail in that role they'll be disappointing the PD, and therefore, God.
Right. We all know the type.
I have a friend, a good friend, who has discerned her Vocation and has come to realize that God is indeed calling her to be Single. (Don't mention Consecrated Virgin...she doesn't qualify. The "Virgin" part of that Vocation is quite literal. Please note: it IS possible to destroy your Vocation.)
She is, now, a very holy person, and has a lot of experience and knowledge, but seems sometimes to be lacking in self-knowledge...as are we ALL. This friend, upon learning of my discernment, proceeded to give me advice about who to listen to, how many people and to have them put me on a particular schedule. Because that's what her people did for her and had they not, she would never have done what she needed to do in order to fulfill her discernment obligations. She'd still be in limbo.
While her advice, on the surface, is good advice, I also know her well enough to realize that she was placed on a schedule and under obedience for a particular reason: she's the biggest procrastinator and maybe, in some ways, the flightiest person I have ever known. She knows obedience, and it was that virtue that forced her to a schedule. She also knows the Holy Spirit, but without something tangible, she would put the Holy Spirit off as she went after other various "shiny objects" in her life.
But she gave me this advice, which I took with a grain of salt, and just said "I have my people", over and over again. Maybe she thinks that she should be one of "my people" but in this case...she isn't. Because she's no different than the people who, a few years ago, put me on THIER schedule, and not God's.
One of the things I've learned in past years is to listen to God, and to follow that interior voice no matter what the World says. I don't have a Spirtual Director, but over time God has helped me to hear His voice, and it is that gift that has saved me a lot of money and grief. Were it not for that gift, I'm certain that I would not be considering my Vocation now.
A few years ago, there were communities I wanted to visit, but it never worked out for me. I couldn't get anyone to watch my dog, I couldn't afford to put her up somewhwere, I looked for a way to go a few states away...but something didn't press me to do it. I could get time off...but something was wrong. So I didn't take action. I didn't go on the retreats.
And my friends upbraided me for letting Satan put blocks in my path, saying I wasn't trying hard enough, I had to go to Serra or this or that or something else. They became quite offended when I explained that I was listening to God and not them, and that I saw the roadblocks as a sign of God's will.
I've since learned that the blocks were indeed the gentle hand of God and not the attacks of Satan. I'm grateful I did not listen to my friends, but chose to hear the small voice I was only then learning to discern. For we cannot discern a Vocation if we have not first learned to listen to the voice of God amid all the chaos of people who have our best interests at heart.
Yes, my friends wanted the best for me, but they did not understand that they were looking at Vocational Discernment in the world's terms, and not God's. They were already married or comfortable in their lifestyles, and their desire for more Religious made them mad in their zeal. Thus, they felt I needed a "schedule" according to THEIR terms, similar to someone who is unemployed and needs a counselor to help them find a job.
A Vocation is NOT a "Job".
It is LIFE itself.
We are called into being, from eternity, to fulfill a certain Vocation; as Married, as a Priest, or as a Religious. And today, maybe as a Single who dedicates one's life to the affairs of God.
One does not approach the affairs of God as one would a mere employer. One does not enter a Vocation as one does a job, which one holds at will. Vocations, indeed, are at will...but they are forever. They are vows to and before God, in response to a specific Call.
We don't fall all over ourselves when someone is called to Marriage...why do we do so when someone is called to serve God alone?
I think some of the hysteria actually DETERS Vocations. It's that hysteria that makes people want to take control of someone's discernment, which is akin to the same hysteria of a mother-in-law over the desire for grandchildren. For some reason, we ALL think we need to be in control of something, and we think that OUR desires are what is important; and in this desire, we forget entirely about God and what HE has Willed and what HE desires.
Personally, I am thankful for the people in my life who, upon learning of my discernment, have kept it low-key. They don't "bug" me about "where I am" or "what I've decided". They don't demand I meet certain goals according to their schedule.
Rather, they let me know they are praying, they let me bring the topic up, and, most importantly...they let God take the lead.
No one can properly discern when there's pressure. No one can hear God's voice...while someone in the background is harping for them to hearken to THEIR vocalizations. No one can be sure they've really discovered God's will for them when all they've followed is the shrill directions of the neighborhood Vocation Nazi.
Discernment is all about learning to listen to and follow GOD'S WILL. A Vocation to the Priesthood or Religious life is no different than Marriage. In our world, Marriage is expected (as little as it seems to happen these days), but Vocations are considered to be extraordinary. They aren't. We are ALL called to something, and all according to God's designs for us. We need people to follow the Call for each Vocation; were it not so, society would not function.
So tone down the hysteria, step up the prayers, and use your "indoor voice" when someone tells you they are discerning.
And don't forget...those who are discerning need more than prayers...they need travel funds, dogsitters, rides to the airport and back, Spiritual Directors (as in people trained for that), and sometimes, just a listening ear that doesn't need to project their own desires upon the one doing the discernment.
Oh, I can go on...but maybe now is a good time to stop lest this post turn into a book.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
A few months ago, at my brother's house, I watched a horror movie called "Descent". It was a group of women who were going spelunking (cave exploring), apparently in a cave that was for "beginners" although they were all very experienced. As it was, apparently one of the women had accidentally discovered another cave system and so lead them into that.
And the new cave WAS very difficult, and they found,after a crawl space collapsed behind them, that they had to keep going; they could not escape through their original route. It was at about this point that they learned they were not where they had planned to be, thanks to the deception of their friend. From that point on, it became a survival movie; now enter the horror element: flesh-eating human-like creatures. I won't go through the gorey details (which they were); I will only say that only one of the women made it out alive, and even there, her sanity, gone. It was a movie completely without hope, and completely without any redeeming value whatsoever.
I literally had a nightmare a couple weeks later that placed me in the cave with them, unable to escape, and when it got to the scene involving the lair of the beasts, somehow I managed to wake myself up so I wouldn't have to "live" through the horror.
I used to love horror movies, and I'll admit I still have a few I remember nostalgically. Maybe I enjoyed them as they seemed so forbidden (Mom didn't want us watching them), but also because they were unrealistic. Although now I don't know if I'd watch them again. It seems my compass has been reset.
Back when I was in college, planning for a career in law enforcement, I knew that I would see some pretty awful things. And I knew, that, as a girl, people might watch for my reactions to the most difficult things. I knew I had to be "tough" and so I set out to desensitize myself. Horror movies, Faces of Death movies...anything I could get my hands on. I didn't want to react when I saw bad things. I wanted to be stoic about it. I knew that my ability to do my job would depend on whether I could be in control of my reactions.
As it was, that's what happened. But somewhere I think it went too far because to a certain degree, I also became "unfeeling". Something in me "broke" when I fed my mind with so many images, many of which were real deaths of real human beings, even very inhumane deaths, including executions.
Those images are still burned into my brain and I have to work to shift my mind away from them. Over time, I'm becoming more horrified at what I used to watch and the things I can never un-see. Things I looked at voluntarily. Recently I read an article about a young man who leaped to his death somewhere in the UK, while a crowd of other young people egged him on. Afterwards they crowded around his body, snapping pictures with their camera phones.
I thank God I never descended that far for I never willed the death of another for entertainment purposes, however, I can understand why those people did what they did. After all, given all the violent images available to us, ranging from the news, the web, horror movies, and available footage of actual intended deaths (such as some in Faces of Death movies), well, it's the next logical step.
Consider for yourselves; what's next?
In a world that does not know God, and does not respect life, can we expect anything different?
It is as I am still emerging from my self-imposed darkness that I'm seeing these things, and understanding them. I want to erase what I've imposed upon my intellect, yet I can't, and perhaps that's my penance.
I am comforted, though, that horror movies no longer have the draw they once held. I am comforted that watching "The Descent" literally gave me nightmares, for it means that I am far healthier than I have been in a very long time.
We all have a choice in what to watch or what to read, and the ideas of others literally enter our souls through our eyes and our ears. With what are we feeding ourselves? What effect will those images or words have on our moral life? What influences us?
Proponents of pornography or horror, graphic metal music or rap, violent video games, etc., will cry out in anger at the suggestion that such things mold them into something they should not be. And yet the evidence is obviously apparent. It was apparent in my life, and it is apparent in theirs. That event in the UK is only a symptom of how deeply people have been affected by the violence in our entertainment industries.
In class this semester we have an essay question involving Plato's cave analogy, and suddenly I realize why part of that analogy horrified me to a certain degree. I'm one of the cave prisoners who has emerged from the darkness. It's not possible to understand the light and what's in the light, and the source of the light if one is trapped in darkness and believes the backlit images are the only reality.
I thank God for my nightmares; they have given me hope that perhaps, finally, I have left the darkness of the cave behind me forever.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
But one of the high points each evening has been reading more of "The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena", which is a conversation between she and God the Father, which was dictated during an ecstasy. As I've been reading, I've been amazed at the consistency with Catholic Doctrine (which would be the reason this is an approved private revelation and why St. Catherine is a Doctor of the Church), and I've been taking her words to heart.
A serious reading of this work leads one to reflect on the state of their own soul, to consider ones life through God's eyes...and the needs of all those people in one's life.
There are vivid (if theological) descriptions of souls in Hell, why they are there, and the torments they suffer and will suffer for eternity. There are descriptions of "the blessed", those souls enjoying eternal union with God, and those souls in purgatory who have not achieved in life the perfection of the blessed, but likewise enjoy a certain union even as they are purged of their own impurities as they are on the road to perfection.
God also describes the way of perfection as a bridge, and why some souls choose to walk in the sludge under the bridge, where they are swept away by the devil, instead of taking the high road designed just for them.
There is so much theological depth to this book, so many descriptive images of the spiritual life and spiritual realities that I find, each night I finish reading, that I love God even more.
Yesterday's reading left me pining for the souls in mortal sin; those who are obstinate in their rejection of God, their false anger at God, in their complete rejection of all that is holy. The torments they are destined to suffer should they die in such a state is horrifying; it makes me realize how much we all must do to reach out and simply pray for such people. God asks us to pray for each other, and in our current society, we see so much secularism, so much hatred of God that we as the faithful have to realize the eternal consequences of such attitudes.
There IS such a place as Hell, it's entirely possible to go there for eternity, and all that is required for such a ticket is...well....a lot of attitudes expressed today. Even among Catholics!
It's unpopular and considered "superstitious" to suggest that one is in danger of Hell; yet, one day we will all go to our judgment, and at that moment, we lose our free will, and if we have abused our freedom in this life we will pay for it for eternity in the next.
The tragedy of this is impossible to express, especially considering all we have been given to assist us in attaining holiness. And it's not just about us; it's about our awareness of the needs of others, not just materially, but SPIRITUALLY. If we're not praying, if we're not working to save souls...we're not doing our jobs.
And this post doesn't come close to coherent, nor can it possibly touch the depth of the thoughts I've had in reading this book...and I still have two-thirds to go, an a ten-page paper to write. I suspect I'll be able to write an entire book when I'm done with this one!
But I'm not just incoherent right now, I'm exhausted and I'm going to do some more reading and collapse into unconsciousness until the alarm goes off at Dark O'Clock in the morning.
St. Catherine of Siena...pray for us!
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Feathers for Children
We used to lie in bed on lazy afternoons, reaching upwards towards the ceiling, I on my mother's left, my brother on her right. Our image of angels were of beings that looked like us, but invisible, and with beautiful wings. Mom explained that they were flying over our heads, and if we raised our hands above us, we could feel the feathery tips as they passed over, constantly revolving in their acts of protection.
It's one of my favorite memories of childhood; holding my fingers upward while lying in bed, sometimes feeling a breeze against my fingertips, while my brother cried out that he had touched a feather. Mom smiled, praising my brother as I tried to stretch upwards even further, not wanting to sit up in order to reach them, asking my Angel to fly a little lower so I could touch his wing, desperately wanting to have the same experience as my brother.
Then I would cry, because the closest I could get was a little breeze, which might have been just a random draft, or maybe a flap of his wing. I was too little, I thought, and in my littleness, I couldn't reach the dear angels, whom I loved so dearly! And then Mom, seeing my tears, would comfort me and say they were only pretending, and even my brother, in a moment of sincere big-brotherhood, would admit he was pretending, too, and he couldn't feel their wings, either.
But a part of me still believes, even as I know angels are pure spirit, and don't fly overhead, that they did generate the breezes that caressed my tiny fingers, and that maybe my brother and my mother DID experience the sensation of feathers against their fingertips, held aloft in a moment of imagination, truly reaching upwards to God through His beautiful servants, our Guardians.
Our Fierce Protectors
Have you ever read the description of the Angels in the Bible? The term "Angel" really describes a role, as opposed to who they are. Maybe we adopt the term because, as humans, what we are is what we use to describe us. Angels are more insubstantial; they fulfill many roles, and collectively, we call these beings by one name even though they carry out different facets of the Will of God.
Have you read of the description of the Cherubim or the Seraphim? Have you taken in how fierce they are, how they worship Our Lord continually, how they do His will so perfectly?
And yet, they are so gentle that Abba gives them to the tiniest of children, entrusting such souls to their care. Guardian Angels can come from any one of the heirarchies of Angels...and each of them is fierce in their love for God, and their love for God's adopted children.
Naming One's Angel
I have read many things about naming one's Guardian Angel, and some of those articles seem quite convincing. There are many anecdotes about how people pray for a name, and it comes. (What's amazing to me is how many times those names are "Michael")
I used to pray to know my Angel's name, but then I read further, and found that, in spiritual warfare, names are important. Names are powerful, and the names of Angels...unpronounceable. All we could discern are derivatives. We must also remember the Fallen Angels, those demons that seek to steal us away from God, and those demons also have names. In an exorcism, the Exorcist asks for the name of the demon; that name can give the exorcist power over it...or, in the case of the unprepared...the power of the demon over the soul. Imagine, if you will, that you pray for the name of your Angel, and a Fallen Angel offers his name? Thus, when you pray, you pray to the name of the demon, entrusting yourself to it. And it chuckles, realizing that it now has you in it's power, freely given by you.
Names are important. Names have power.
We are not meant to know the names of our Holy Angels, those sweet Guardians. They remain nameless so that greater Glory can be given to God. Angels are humility nearly personified, remaining anonymous (but for those revealed in Sacred Scripture or Tradition), while those who give their names are seeking glory through their own pride.
If you pray, then, for a name to your Angel and there is a response, question the response...for who is being glorified when you call that name? How many have as their personal protector the Archangel Michael? How many have as a personal protector the Archangel Raphael?
How many people who claim to be reincarnated claim famous people as their own incarnation?
Do not those Angels, the ones named in Scripture, already have assignments? Any Saint or Angel can certainly be a special Patron, but our Guardian Angels are ours alone, assigned specifically to us, individually. Their names can't be known.
We as human beings are weak in the realm of the spirit, and we must trust the Our Lord and the Church to guide us. Certainly it is possible that our Guardian Angels might reveal their names to us, but I find it safer to follow the advice of recognized Exorcists to allow our Guardians to remain nameless so that we may call upon their Mission, not their name, in order to avoid calling upon the Nemesis.
It is important for us to recognize our Angels, but we can do this by using the mind of God, of remembering the virtue of Humility, and leaning on our Angels as we learn this foundational virtue.
I used to ask for my Angel's name...now I just pray to him, calling upon his title, for we are comfortable enough with one another that his name is not important; it is his function and subsequent relationship with me that glorifies God.
Our ways are not God's ways, and even if we do not understand His mysteries, we are bound to follow them. I thank God for my dear Angel, and look forward to finally learning his name, one day, when he finally carries me to the Father's eternal embrace.
Friday, October 03, 2008
Deb at UKOK did a "general tag" at her blog, and because autumn is my favorite season, well, I'm adopting this Meme as my own.
When does fall begin for you?
Here in Minnesota, it sorta begins in September, but the colors don't peak until mid-October. In northern Minnesota, they're already peaking in the middle or end of September.
What is your favorite aspect of fall?
Crisp temperatures that blend with the vivid colors against bright blue skies.
What is your favorite fall memory?
When I was a little girl, we lived in northern Illinois and had a Sugar Maple (think bright red leaves!) in our front yard. My brother and I used to climb the tree and hang out in the branches, in one of our few moments without the ugly reign of sibling rivalry. (I loved my brother to pieces in those moments.) When we felt like it, we'd jump into a pile of fallen leaves. There was a rule...the person who had last jumped had to rake the leaves up for the next person. My brother could always climb higher than I, and we actually had to put the picnic table at the base of the tree to enable me to climb onto the lowest branch. The first time Mom saw this happen, she rushed out, terrified, thinking we were falling out of the tree. Once she saw what we were doing and the large pile of leaves, she went back into the kitchen, content to watch through the window, admonishing us not to jump from any higher. It was maybe the one time we didn't disobey, and one of my most poignant memories of friendship with my brother.
What do you like to drink in the fall?
Spiced mead? (Actually, I've never had it but I have the spice packet in my cupboard). Red wine, hot cinnimon cider, hot chocolate. Above all...a really good Pinot Noir. The bouquet of burning leaves melds with the atmosphere at both table and campfire.
What is your favourite fall food? Garlic soup! French Onion Soup! Chicken Tortilla Soup! Soups! My Kingdom for a Soup!
What is fall weather like where you live? In Minnesota, it varies. We can range from the 30's at night (Fareinheit...below freezing at 32 degrees), to the 80's in the afternoon. The higher temps tend to be rare, so more average is 70's in September (20 Celcius?), to the 60's, to 50's as we progress towards November. I would have to say, though, that October is the most beautiful month of the year in this state (or at least my part of it in East Central Minnesota). Temps are comfortable, colors are beautiful, great sleeping weather, great outdoor weather....
What color is fall? Well, on my street, laden with the trees I can't name that all turn yellow this time of year and drop their leaves prior to peak...it's yellow. While my street is completely skeletal, the rest of the word is ablaze with color. The Sugar Maples, few in number in my neighborhood, start turning red from the top down, a brilliant nearly-neon red, losing their leaves at the tip, baring skeletal branches even while leaves at the base are still green. The Burning Bushes next to some of the buildings are vibrant in their orange-red color, the Sumac is red in the ditches, and everywhere there is a mix of green to yellow to orange to red. And don't forget about the yellow-green-brown reeds in the slough, the brown cattails, the black-eyed susans, the lavender (or at least lavender-colored) prairie flowers...and the taupe and black of the Canadian Geese. Fall is a cacaphony of color, the fulfillment of earthly brilliance, the olfactory climax of the best God's creation has to offer.
What does fall smell like? Fresh, crisp air, drying leaves, burning leaves, (like a good Pinot Noir....my favorite wine that tastes like burning leaves). And later, in November (if we're lucky), the scent of fresh snow even before the first flurry flies on the breeze.
Holiday shopping in fall: Holy-day shopping? Oh...we only have All Saints' and All Souls's day in the fall...I don't shop for those. I go to Mass. It's a LOT more fun than shopping. I hate shopping. Although I do shop for fall/winter clothing this time of year because it's nicer than summer clothing, it's more modest, and sometimes you can find the COOLEST sweaters! For cheap if you do it right!
Does this mean Christmas shopping? I just do Christmas shopping in Advent when I have some time here or there. Or just shop online. Computers are God's gift to us!
If you could go anywhere in the fall, where would you go? I'd like to head up highway 61 towards Thunder Bay (if you're not from MN...get a map!). I've also always wanted to travel up the New England coastline in the Fall. Although, honestly, anyplace with daytime temperatures in the 50's (F.), bright colors, and blue skies, well...that's enough for my contemplative romantic heart. The crashing of the waves only adds to the romance.
What is your favorite fall sport? Can't say I have one. I do fondly remember High School football games, trying to stay warm under a blanket, wearing a coat over my Band uniform (I was in the Flag Corps for Marching Band season), the bright lights of the field, the rivalry with a particular team....gotta say, it IS the season for Football! Now, where I used to hold frozen nachos in cardboard, I'm content with a beer along with my bad nachos!
A few years ago I also attended a Steeplechase, part of an Eventing competetion. For those not into horses: Eventing consists of three events: Dressage, where the horse and rider cover an arena through a series of proscribed steps and are judged on their showmanship and accuracy; the Steeplechase portion -there's another term that escapes me - that is a racecourse over turf (grass) and varying jumps, a few miles; and Stadium Jumping, where they try to perfectly jump a series in an arena.
I gotta say...that competetion STILL feeds my imagination, and I've decided that before I die, I need to compete in Eventing. That's about as likely as my other strong desire to compete in a true Downhill (skiiing).
Do you have a favorite fall chore? No. I avoid chores. I was introduced to chores as a child and didn't find them to my liking...that's why I bought a townhome. Which still requires too much work. And I still don't do them.
Ok, seriously...I never minded raking leaves. I've also picked up bushels and bushels of acorns at a local state park...I never want to see acorns again.
What is your least favorite thing about fall? I miss most of the beautiful weather due to work or school on the most perfect of weekends.
What is your favorite fall holiday? Well, here in the US we celebrate Thanksgiving the last Thursday in November. My understanding has changed over the years, and so now, I'm even more thankful, especially considering WHO we're thanking. I spent a semester in Mexico in 1994 so missed Fall that year, and thus Thanksgiving...but our Mexican hosts (through the school) brought us together to celebrate our National holiday with them. It wasn't the same; everything in nature was still green, the turkey was good but not quite the same as it is at home, and we were eating outside as though it was the 4th of July. But it was beautiful; for as we'd celebrated their National Day of Independence (including the Grito de Hidalgo) with them on September 16, so they celebrated with us the Feast of Thanksgiving. And we all gave Thanks to each other, as friends and as nations. God bless America...and God bless Mexico, my second home. If I ever fled America...I'd flee to them, my second family. Would Mexico welcome me back?
What’s your favorite kind of pie? I know I'm a Yankee, but there's nothing better in the Fall than a home-cooked Southern Pecan Pie! But as Pecans aren't so native here in Minnesota, I have to say that Mom's Apple Pie is at the top, as is Pumpkin Pie, and a few years ago a co-worker brought in her family's recipe: A Sweet Potato Pie! Do I REALLY have to pick a favorite? I also seem to recall a college friend whose family came up from New Orleans...and cooked us all an amazing Southern Dinner....including Sweet Potato Pie! (God bless Clarence and his family!)
Which do you prefer, the Farm or the Fair?
Hands down - the Farm! The pastures, the fallen apples, the splendid trees, the creek, the farm road, the cattle lowing near the barn..the scent of cider in the kitchen after a long day...
Do you have a favorite fall book? Um...a cookbook?
How about a favorite fall poem or quote? No. Most writers and their quotes speak of autumn as a season of oncoming death, but in autumn, I see life fulfilled in resplendent beauty.
Like UKOK...I tag those who love this season!