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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Forgetting About God's Love

I've been going through a long period of spiritual dryness, struggling in prayer and still trying to wade through my days at work. Certainly I have continued to pray, especially the rosary (some days that's all I could really manage), and work in the Lord's vineyard.

Perhaps a side-effect of working within the Church is "being there" for others, preaching about how God loves them, struggling to love others even in their worst moments, and, well, this kind of thing takes a toll.

Today at Mass I received the answer to what has been ailing me. The homily was about Eucharistic Adoration, and because of work, of late I've missed mine a great deal. But this priest, this blessed priest of God gave me a huge reminder as to why we go to Adoration:  because God loves us.

I sat back in my pew, astonished that I'd forgotten such a simple, basic thing. I've been, in my spiritual life, focusing on how I have to love God, and I do love him, and want to love him more. As I listened and pondered and took the priest's words to heart, I realized that in all that loving, all that work, I wasn't at all praying about how God loves me.

This is something I've often struggled with; I've written of it before. But somehow, in the last several stressful months, I forgot that I'm not the one who's supposed to be doing all the "acting". That's God's job. For me to be effective in my work, for my prayer life to bear fruit, to even have a "life", it starts with God's love...for me.

All of us learn to love because we have first experienced love.  John Paul II, in Redemptor hominis, as well as in many other writings, pointed out time and time again, "Man cannot live without love."  Indeed. Everything we are, everything we have, comes from God's love, His very Goodness. If we are to love, we first must know His love. If we do not realize we are loved by God, how can we possibly carry love to others?

We can't. It's as simple as that.

So my advice to you, if you are struggling in prayer as I have been, take some time away from your regular meditations and just BE in God's presence, rest there, and ask Him to reveal to you how much He loves you.  Let him love you for awhile, so that you can learn to love Him more perfectly.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Thank you, my friends, for your prayers.

This week we learned who remains and who had to go. It's been difficult, both in the waiting and in the endings.

As for now, I still have a job. I need to find a new one by next summer, though, and before if possible. Not because I'm being terminated, but because I can't live on nothing over the summer. The bills don't stop coming even though my work hours and paychecks will.

We've had a difficult time and had to say goodbye to people, and that's always hard, especially when it comes so suddenly but with so much anticipation. When we spoke, after the one from our own group was terminated, we found that all of us thought that we'd be the one to go. Our own boss actually, several times, offered her own head so that no one else would have to give theirs. We all, individually, did or expressed the same thing.

We're tight, or we were. Maybe the loss of one makes even tighter. We don't agree politically or even necessarily faithfully (with regard to our Catholic faith), but we work together well, we love and respect each other, we are friends who just lost a very respected co-worker and right now, we're in a sort of mourning.

My friends, know that your prayers for me were also those for our lost co-worker and friend, and know that the Holy Spirit made the decision, and that decision was correct. I can't say why, but it is exactly right, even though knowing that does not lessen our own grief or prayers.

Those of you who have experienced "downsizing" may know what I mean. Please, though, continue your prayers for us and for our intentions...there is much work to be done, and much need of support.

God bless you, and thank you.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Mere Politics?

Recently I had a conversation with a friend who lamented her father leaving the Church because the Pastor in question had gotten too involved in "politics", and he didn't intend on going back until the Pastor in question left.

Interestingly enough, he went to the Lutheran Community down the road, who didn't avoid "politics" but who, it just so happens, had a platform with which my friend's father happened to agree.

Methinks that if one is following a Faith based on politics, one's relationship with God is inherently disordered.

What, you may ask, were the political issues in question?  

 Abortion and Gay "Marriage" of course!

So many people accuse Catholics of bringing Faith into the public square, and condemn us for it. They try to shut us up and send around Facebook Memes designed to shame us into silence. Shame us with profanity into keeping "our beliefs to ourselves."

To those I respond blatantly that since they who are trying to shame us are clearly living their lack of faith so publicly, it gives equal license to we who believe to do the same. We will not be silenced simply because a few people want us to shut up. In fact, we will be more vibrant still, for we CANNOT be silent in the face of injustice.

On the issue of "Abortion", it belongs to the deposit of the Catholic Faith that life is sacred. It belongs to God alone and always has, from the beginning of time. The fact that this issue has for several years now come into the political sphere does not render it political property. We as Catholics believed and advocated the sanctity of life from the very beginning and this is present in the writings of even pagans in observance of the early  Christians (who were only Catholic as there were no other Christian denominations until 1500).

The Other "Political" Issue?

Thanks for asking!

The other "political" issue at hand, at least here in MN, is the push to re-define "Marriage" to include same-sex  couples.

Once again, people of Faith are not being allowed to comment without being shouted down by all sorts of vile accusations.

Why? Because we have logic on our side. The arguments from those who oppose the MN Marriage Amendment argue from emotion, not logic. They argue from mere "feeling" and a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of marriage and the nature of love.

You see, their argument goes something like this (and I used to fall within this belief myself, until I woke up and began questioning the status quo):

* "People should be allowed to love whom they want. No one has the right to tell them they cannot love someone."
*  "How dare someone tell me I cannot be happy?"
* "Telling me I can't marry my same-sex partner is relegating me to second-class citizenship."
*  "You hate me! You're a hater! You're a homophobe!" 

You get the idea. It gets tiresome.

The reality is this: "love" according to cultural definition has NOTHING to do with the nature of marriage. What our culture calls "love" is, in reality, mere lust, mere superficial desire and attraction. It does not desire the eternal good of the other. It does not look beyond this world.

So, to address the first point, people can "love" whom they want. This amendment does not limit freedom of consortium or association. It simply states that such association or consortium does not match the definition of "marriage", which is a union of one man and one woman who are bonded for the ultimate reason of the foundation of society and the upbringing of children in a stable relationship and for the common good.

On the second point, regarding "Happiness", well, don't get me going on that definition. How do you define "happiness"?  I seriously doubt that redefining Marriage to match the definition of "Anything Goes" would really give "happiness" to anyone. No one is being denied "happiness" but for their own personal definition that happens to be temporal and quite transitional. Given the state of "gay marriage" in other states, and the rate of divorce and infidelity, I seriously doubt the MN amendment would do anything other than render more people miserable by definition and give divorce attorneys more of your money.

The charge of relegating same-sex partners to "second-class citizenship" is just plain silly. You see, when compared to slavery and REAL Civil Rights issues, the question was not about the DEFINITION OF MARRIAGE. It was about WHOM was allowed to Marry, and yes, it WAS, back then, a civil rights issue as people were actually not allowed to marry even though under Biblical and natural law it was clearly permitted. Same sex "marriage" on the other hand, simply doesn't exist as it does not meet the basic nature of what marriage has always been and what it intends. A man and a man and a woman and a woman cannot between themselves be fruitful without unnatural intervention. And that unnatural intervention actually opens a whole other Pandora's box as it necessitates the death of many children in vitro. In natural marriage, the miscarriage of a child is a tragedy. In Same-Sex "Marriage" the death of many children is part and parcel to create from a dish, only one child.

On the final inflammatory point, no, I don't hate anyone. I do hate temper tantrums though, and find them to be far less dignified when put on by full grown adults who know better, and I'll treat them in the same way as I treat a child: by ignoring him or maybe, in severe cases, by throwing a glass of ice water on him when he gets to be too loud and tiresome.

I am quite tired of being "hated", however, because I'm Catholic. I'm tired of people accusing me of "not respecting" them. I'm tired of people doing to me what they accuse me of doing to them when I've done no such thing.

I'm tired of the heterophobics and the Catholophobics and am tired of being treated as a second class citizen because I am Catholic. But then again, that's our lot, isn't it? Because we have a LOT to live up to and here is an examination of conscience for all of us who claim to be Christian, no matter what our Faith or Denomination:

From a letter to Diognetus (Nn. 5-6; Funk, 397-401)

"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.

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."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Define Irony: Parish Employment and Vocation

I haven't written in a long time about my Vocation because, well, I'm not sure that I have one. Over time I think that's become abundantly clear even to the most casual of readers. Over the last year, although I've wanted to keep the door open, it's one that has been definitively shut.

How do I know?

Because I'm too old, I have way too much debt, and the debt that holds me back isn't educational, but the debt literally created by being paid so little while working for the Catholic Church. I have no hope or even any desire, anymore, of pursuing a Vocation. That's why I haven't written of it. I'm simply...done.

Before you get your undies in a bundle and call me a "liberal", though, or seek to "comfort" me, hear me out because there is irony here, and this is where God reveals part of His hand.  

When I began my employment in a Catholic parish, I was in vocational and Vocational limbo. It fell into my lap and although I had absolutely zero desire to work for a parish, friends encouraged it and even pointed me to the job posting, the only one that gave me an interview. Literally the ONLY one. I even called to speak to the DRE (Director of Religious Education) hoping she'd say that no, I didn't possess the basic qualifications.  Instead, she told me to submit a resume' and cover letter and see where it went. So I did, and when I was bottoming out and ready to give up, they called me for an interview.

I interviewed for the position on the Feast of St. Monica, August 27, 2007.  They called me back exactly five years ago today, on the Feast of St. Augustine, to offer me the job.

I had been praying, incidentally, even before I knew about this particular job, through the intercession of St. Monica and St. Augustine. Because of that, even though I really didn't WANT the job, I had no other options and was at the end of my money. I said "yes" both because of the obvious connections and for practical reasons, even though it was only a 10-month position, with PT hours in the summer.

I thought maybe it would buy me time to find another job, but with an income, no matter how meager, I decided to let God work and see what happened. I had already been accepted to Ave Maria's Institute for Pastoral Theology and thought maybe God would somehow come through in some way.

As it turns out, He did...but not in the ways I expected. 

I suffered three years of coursework while working an irregular schedule, and I am a person who NEEDS structure. As a result, I only graduated Cum laude at the end of the program. I think it's a miracle to have that honor, given what my necessary parish work schedule did to attack my ability to focus on studies, given my own private intellectual needs. (I think I'm borderline ADD). Most of my classmates graduated Summa Cum Laude or above, in spite of their own personal struggles. It was great to be part of such a gifted class of individuals - they taught me so much!

 On topic, though, I can thank a couple of Religious Sisters who came to speak at an event I had to organize, and through their connection to Padre Pio, and through their friendship and invitation, I began to actively discern the Call in the depths of my soul, to seek Our Lord through a Holy Vocation as a Religious Sister. And as a result of prayer, I sought out the contemplative life. Because of many people I have never met and probably never will, I visited three communities, two far from me, requiring airfare.(One was the Motherhouse of the Sisters who got me started). The other was close enough to drive, but that summer, my mortgage was paid by a long-lost friend I had met ONLY because I was working in a parish and we crossed paths at a Youth Event.

It has been the blessed result of my parish employment that both drove and allowed me to pursue God in a way visible to others, and which hopefully, edified them also in their own greatest adventure as a human being.

Yet there is still a dark side. I completed my Master's in Theological Studies, and the grad loans through a secular company, have no mercy. As it was, because I was paid so little through the parish, and not eligible for a raise until I had been there for four years, and because life goes on, my debt has increased. From the beginning, I couldn't even get an oil change without putting it on credit. My car has weird problems and although I paid it off in the last 5 years, just after I did so my car cracked a head. Not a head gasket, but the aluminum head itself, costing me $1800 at an independent shop (far down from the $2700 the Saturn dealership, when it still existed, quoted me).

I've had to buy underwear and socks on credit, and my favorite place to shop is Goodwill these days. Not than anything ever fits and if it does, I still come out looking like I shopped at Goodwill.  By the way...I have always hated shopping with a passion. The reality is that clothing doesn't look good on me, never has, and the only reason I shop is because I'd look worse naked.  Besides, being naked is both offensive to others and just plain immodest, therefore immoral (unless it's proper like, say, in the shower).

Ha! I digress!

So now, 5  years later, I've nearly gone into foreclosure once, was saved by family as a "loan" and'm about to lose my job. 

I'm not supposed to talk about it, but in reality, I have been because I need prayer. I know it's time to move on and my parish is "restructuring" the staff, and our own office of four will be losing two. They (and by "they" I know they are quoting the Business Administrator who is PC to the max) say they are cutting "programs, not people" but we all know it comes down to people. Just call it what it is already! We are not stupid and know that the parish, as a result of people in the pews not contributing, means programs and therefore the people running them, are being fired!

That's life. I'm not even angry about it because it's happening everywhere and I'm one of those Catholics in the pew not contributing because I can't afford it, either. I think I gave $10.00 when I got my tax return or when I was anticipating it. Seriously, over the last 5  years, my contribution statements from my own parish have been humiliating. I'm dead weight upon the Church simply because I work for her and haven't anything to give.

So it is I can't blame the people because they don't know how much the parish is suffering, and well, they don't have the money anyway.

 I don't have the guts to go to the Pastor and offer my head. I've prayed about it and I've struggled with it, but I simply can't just quit, no matter how easy they're making it to do so. I have nowhere to go, and really, quitting a church position is exceptionally difficult because the people with whom we bond become like an extended family.  It's impossible to stay aloof. I have to wait this out and let the chips fall...and then protest if they don't fall where I want.

Amazingly, I want my own head to be chopped here. I don't belong in parish ministry. It's not my calling and I knew it even before I applied. I've been mystified for 5 years, exactly, and just hope that in some way my work has been a benefit to the parish as a whole. Some will be thrilled to see me go. Others will be scandalized. Others may leave because they will see the cuts being made (not because of me) as a total betrayal.

I want to go and think it's time. I hope it's my Pastor who fires me so that I can offer all this to him, for he is in a terrible spot and I don't want him to feel badly. I want him to know, definitively, that he is making this easy for me to go and that it's a serious gift from God.

The scripture I  pondered, all the time in reference to Our Lord was, "To Whom will I go? You have the words of everlasting life!".

God knows what He is doing. I have been there for a reason and would not ever have pursued Jesus at such great lengths had I not been called to work, for a time, in this particular capacity within  our Faith. 

The reality is, though, that parish work has also been my greatest obstacle, both in education and in pursuing my Vocation. The place I want to go (Vocational)  has meetings every month, yet I am required to be at work that very same weekend, so I can't take the time off to go. And there isn't anyone to take my place, nor can I demand that my coworkers cover me as they are also otherwise engaged with work and home demands.

I don't feel badly about losing my parish job, but do beg your prayers. Please pray I can find something, and specifically something in the secular world, where my degree will actually do some good. Please pray that God's will be done, and even though I'm old and have given up, please pray for my Vocation. As long as I have breath in me I have vows to give and long to give them to holiness in some specific and sacrificial way.

Thanks for hanging with me, my dear readers and friends. I guess the adventure continues!

God bless all of you! 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Home Again

This summer has been busy. In July I spent a week studying iconography again, came home for two weeks, and left on a long-awaited road trip with my brother, destination: mid-western family loop.

We grew up in Illinois and moved when we were young, but old enough to consider ourselves as having "grown up" there.

Several years ago, our aunt, our Dad's only sibling and surviving member of his immediate family moved to a home near where we'd lived. We've been wanting to visit, but our respective schedules have been difficult to coordinate. But this happened. Finally.

We left a week ago and arrived to find our stoic uncle working on a project and an ecstatic aunt I haven't seen since my Dad's funeral in 1995, rushing out of the house to greet us. After a whhirlwind few days of conversation and "childhood tourism" we moved on to another state to visit more family, and I haven't had a moment to just rest and pray about what has happened and all that I learned within the bonds of "long-lost" family and home.

I have a lot to ponder about this trip and our visit home but haven't the energy tonight to write all that is in my heart and on my mind.

Please be patient with me while I sort out some of the profound things I have encountered during the last week of visiting family in a few states; I hope to be back to writing again soon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Prayer For the Government

Last week I was on retreat and as Mass was in the Extraordinary Form most days, I  used me St. Andrew Daily Missal.

It was quite providential, then, to discover on page 562, a prayer I'd never heard or seen before, but is so needed in our times. It is abridged from a prayer composed by Archbishop Carroll circa 1800. We should all be praying this every single day and after every single Mass.


We pray Thee, O almighty and eternal God, who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy; that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue, with unchanging faith, in the confession of Thy name. 

We pray Thee, O God of might, wisdom, and justice, through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist, with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude, the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides, by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of the Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government; so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge, and may perpetuate to us the blessings of equal liberty. 

We pray for his Excellency the Governor of this State, for the members of the Assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare; that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability. 

We recommend likewise to Thy unbounded mercy all our brethren and fellow-citizens, throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge, and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union and in that peace which the world cannot give; and, after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal. 


Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Desire to be Known and Loved

Having worked with and around children for a several years now, I have an observation I've been pondering for quite some time.

A few years ago, the Pastor at the parish where I am employed went to visit the Kindergarten class. They had some questions to ask him; simple but VERY important things that told them all they needed to know about him, such as, "What is your favorite color?"  "What is your favorite animal?" "What is your favorite sport?". There were more, of course, but those questions told the children all that was important about Father as a human being. They were relational questions.

You see, the children already loved and respected Father but they wanted to know things about him to which they could relate. It was of IMMENSE importance that they learn about his favorite color, animal, and sport  to see if those things were also THEIR favorite things!

Of course, each time Father answered a question, all of the children would pipe up with THEIR favorite things and start telling him all kinds of stories about their own favorite colors, animals (pets!) and sports, and naturally, that required them to expound greatly in detail.

Father, being  a very organized sort, had a very difficult time getting a word in edgewise and left that particular class session just a little rumpled in spirit.

I remember him telling me about this and all I could do was laugh at the mental image. "Father, they just want to make sure you know them as well as they know you!"

This is what I've been pondering for so long. Yes, it's clear to anyone that the children wanted him to know them and that they wanted to know more about him. But why?

The answer is simple:  Love. 

Think about it. This is "Human Nature 101".  When we love someone, we want to be known by them. Maybe we already know them or think we do, but it becomes of the utmost importance to also be known. To be recognized. To identify with them on some level. To be loved back.

This is the foundation of friendship. First it is superficial (identifying with another on favorite ie superficial  things) and then it goes deeper. Before it can go deeper, though, one must learn about things specific to that person and help that person recognize things that are specific to us as individual human beings.

Because I am an adult employee in a church, and therefore must lead many events and come into contact with many youth volunteers, sometimes I become the focus of a particular need. When one of our youth come to me for direction on a project or offer to work with me, even if I'd rather handle that particular thing alone and delegate them elsewhere, I have learned to let them help in some way. It might be painting a decorative mural for the wall for Vacation Bible School. . It might be asking them to carry this little box of pens (that I could handle myself just fine)  to that location. It might be just to be patient and answer their various questions about the simplest or most unrelated things. It might be just to listen and encourage an interest in a particular subject.

In the end, their questions and their tales about themselves and their families (from age 5 or younger on up to teens!) isn't about the event at hand. It is rather a simple request from one human being to another:  "Please recognize me. Please love me and let me tell you what I want you to love about me and how God made me!"

What I've noticed especially is that children love to talk. When they have learned to trust adults in their lives, they reveal everything. They latch on to their favorite people and tell them as many tales as they can about everything they know. They try to imitate that adult (or teen, even!). They will reveal their very souls and all this is really just an elaborate way for one human to connect with another. To say, "Please love me as much as I already love you!"

This behavior doesn't end with childhood; it's part of what adults do every day, too, although the form it takes is much more refined. 

Do you know why it's so hard to get volunteers for ANY given event, and why some need a personal phone call? Because a general call for volunteers isn't enough for some people. They need a little extra "I love you and know you so I'm calling you personally to take on this task."

We live in a world of broken families; families that have bourne children, now adults, in need of love that a shattered family simply couldn't provide when it was most necessary in their individual formation.. When a child comes to you and shares their heart, be open to them. Smile, even if you are sad about something. Smile, even if you are angry or stressed out. Take a moment  to enjoy the happiness of a child who is expressing that they love you and love you so much they want you to love them, too.

Do the same thing with adults because they, too, are the children they have always been, and they, too, are looking for someone to love them and to know them for who they are as fellow children of God.

As with young children, know when to encourage, know when to correct, know when to discipline. Human relationships can be very complicated, but everything comes down to one simple thing:

 What does the sacrifice that is true love for another human being, knowing they have been called to life with Christ for eternity, demand of you right now? 

And pray...

Pray for Our Lord to help you discern that answer in union with His Most Sacred and Merciful Heart!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Unhappy Endings

I used to wonder how I'd react if I was ever bitten by a dog. Would I be angry? Furious? Demand the death of the animal? Be fearful? Just of the dog or all dogs? Freak out completely?

As it turns out, none of those things. Inside of the shock of the experience, there was only a deep, terrible sadness. Even as I staunched the blood, I knew my wound would heal but for the was fatal action.

A couple months ago I wrote about my foster "Aslan", named for his mane of fur. I wrote of his aggression and the fact I was going to work with him and with the behaviorist's recommendations. For the last month or so, that's what I've been doing. And Aslan had been doing well...or so I thought.

I noticed other forms of aggression I suspected might also be Retriever-snottiness, testing me, and because I wasn't sure which behavior was aggressive, if I was tripping a trigger, I actually asked last week if he could be moved to a foster home with more experience with aggressive dogs. Maybe someone who could perhaps reach through and have success with him.

But it wasn't to be. On Tuesday night, while I was brushing him, Aslan turned and bit me. No warning. I wasn't touching his nails. I wasn't trying to muzzle him. I wasn't doing anything to trip his trigger. He just decided to bite and followed through on the impulse.

I could feel his teeth puncturing my flesh - there was an actual sensation of it, followed by the white-hot pain, and hot on the heels of that...the shock. And then the emotion - I knew in that very moment that it was a death sentence for him. I stood there, hand over the wound, knowing that as he laid there, ears flat out to the side, teeth bared, that it was over.

I was shaking a bit, and already crying, my breath rasping in my throat. I forced myself to calm down and do what clearly needed to be done. I went into the kitchen, grabbed a paper towel to soak up the blood, got a look at it, and took some photos of the bite - pretty hard to do but managed to get a few. (I did this partially to document, partially to, at some point, get an objective look at it later.) After that I washed the wound with soap and hot water - gently. And sprayed the hell out of it with Bactine. At some point I managed to wander into the bathroom and grab my old Ski Patrol pack with all my First Aid supplies, pull out some sterile pads and tape and patch myself up. I had to use a bandanna for a bit of a pressure dressing.

Doing this forced me to focus for a while, clear my head (well, as much as one can clear one's head when one is bleeding), and think about how best to proceed.

I called Aslan's adoption representative to let her know of the incident and asked her to call me in the morning. She called back immediately, and we discussed what would happen in all likelihood. I said that I wasn't angry and it was the truth; I wasn't. But I also was very clear in that I felt Aslan could not be adopted. He was too unpredictable - he would really hurt someone. I stood there bleeding, knowing the consequences of every possible course of action. None of them good.

And I was crying, and I was upset, and dang it, that bite HURT!

And then I had to act as calmly and normally as possible, for I don't have a fenced yard. I had to take the dogs out to do some business. It went fine.

Wednesday morning, when I awoke and changed the bandage, I realized I had to go to the doctor. No avoiding it - I needed a tetanus shot and likely a round of antibiotics. Although had I gone in immediately there probably would have been a couple stitches, as I waited until the next day it was too late for that.

Later that day Aslan's representative called me. His case had been discussed at length and sentence had been passed. He had to be euthanized. 

I knew that would be the verdict and yes, I agreed. Not out of anger, but out of realization that he was too unpredictable to be adopted. When a trigger can't be isolated, when every little thing becomes the trigger...that can't be helped. It can't be trained out of the dog. He made his decision, his terrible, terrible decision.

Unfortunately, it couldn't happen immediately. I had to wait and so my heart has been heavy and I've been weeping off and on for the last two days. Even amidst the stress of my professional life, I've had to push back the tears and profound sadness. At home I was on egg shells, careful not to make eye contact with the dog, careful not to trip on him or set him off. He was clearly also on "different" behavior, always watching me with a wary eye. Not baleful, just wary, as if waiting for a counter-attack.

Tonight I spoiled him with his last leisurely walks, hotdogs with his food, no longer concerned with his weight.

I drove to the vet clinic and played the song I always sang to him, "Little Red Riding Hood", realizing this big bad wolf had shown all his cards. All I could think about was the old folk tale about the snake who said to his savior, "You knew what I was when you picked me up."

Yes, I did. On some level, I did, and then after seeing him in action, yes, I knew. But I kept him anyway, hoping things could be different for him.

Tonight we said goodbye to my foster and I remained with him. I sat with him, I petted him, I forgave him. This evening before leaving home I actually looked into his big hopeful brown eyes and told him I forgave him. I apologized, too, for whatever I did to make him bite me. I apologized for what we were about to do.

It didn't matter to Aslan that I forgave him. He didn't know the difference, but I do. I knew I could not be in that room with him as he was put to sleep if I was angry. He had experienced far too much of human anger in his short life, and for me, I knew anger would only do more damage to my very soul. In truth I forgave him almost immediately, but I had to speak it. I had to say it out loud while looking into his eyes. 

And I prayed, too. I offered him back to God, Aslan's creator and my own. I know that even though animals do not have immortal souls, God cares about them. He has shown me that over and over again. [Note: please don't try to argue this point in the combox. I'm not in the mood and you won't get anywhere. Just let it go]

One of the things I resolved about about fostering animals is that, if they are in rough shape in some way, they will leave my hands in better condition than that which they arrived into my care. In some ways, Aslan was better. He'd lost weight, had more energy, was far happier than when he had first come to me. He wasn't in pain all the time. He showed me his best side, I think, in his clownishness and in his clear desire just to be a normal dog.

Oh, the tales I could tell!

As this was not a happy ending, though, I'm not sure if I can claim that kind of success with this particular dog. He didn't leave my hands better off. Healthier, longer living. Yes, it was the decision that had to be made, but I hardly call this a successful foster experience. I think the best I can say is that I tried, we all tried, and even in its imperfection, the last several weeks of Aslan's life were probably better than they had been before.

We'll never know, though. We can only guess.

Dammit, Aslan, you big fat  stupid butterball of fluff with teeth, I loved you and I miss you! Rest in peace, my friend. You will never ever have to be afraid ever again.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Man in Relation to the Angels

Hello, friends, long time no see!  Tonight I am answering a couple questions the very patient Jose' asked me MONTHS ago!

Here is his question:

The question is on the Angels and where we stand in relation to them in the "Great Hierarchy". 

When I speak to most Protestants I find that they believe that it is man's destiny to surpass Angels and stand nearer to God than they. Essentially, that Angels are closer to God FOR NOW because of man's fallen nature, but that man was once closer to God than Angels in the time of Adam and Eve, and that humans shall be raised higher than Angels once again one day. Man, as God originally made him, is higher than the Angels. 

Yet, as I watch EWTN I often find individual Theologian's often putting Angels closer to God than man, by nature. In Psalm 8 we find a line that says "Only a Little lower than the Angels you made us", and that to me sort of sealed the deal in favor of Angels, by nature, being closer to God. Recently, though, I have found that not all translators say the same in that Psalm. Some Translators actually say the PSalmist writes "Only a little lower than GOD you made us." ...That tips the scale in favor of my Protestant friends' belief that MAN has the higher nature, fallen as it currently is. What do you think?

Great question!

To answer it I looked not only to Sacred Scripture, but also to the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas who, of course, is far wiser than I am!

First, to Scripture. I went to my  1966 Jerusalem Bible and inquired there first, with the passage in question:  Psalm 8:5.

The Psalm states:

YHWH, our Lord,
how great your name throughout the earth!
Above the heavens is your majesty chanted
by the mouths of children, babes in arms.
You set your stronghold firm against your foes
to subdue enemies and rebels.
I look up at your heavens, made by your fingers,
at the moon and stars you set in place -
ah, what is man that you should spare a thought for him,
the son of man that you should care for him?
Yet you have made him little less than a god,
you have crowned him with glory and splendour
made him lord over the work of your hands,

set all things under his feet,
sheep and oxen, all these
yes, wild animals too,
birds in the air, fish in the sea
travelling the paths of the ocean.
YHWH, our Lord,
how great your name throughout the earth!
Now that we have the Psalm in front of us, we can consider the proper context. Notice first that the word "god" in this translation is not capitalized. The footnote for verse 8 states, ""The author is thinkin gof man in comparison with the mysterious beings that constitute the court of YHWH, Ps 29:1+, the 'angels' of Greek and Vulg. see Cf. Ps 45:6+"

With those directions, I look to Psalm 29:1:

"Pay tribute to Yahweh, you sons of God,
tribute to Yahewh of glory and power,
tribute to Yahweh of the glory of his name,
worship Yahweh in his sacred court." 

Psalm 45:6  
"Your throne, God, shall last for ever and ever..."
Then I went to look at the margin to see what directions this Bible gives me for  understanding Psalm 8:5.

It references Gen 1:26-28:
"God said, 'Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wold beasts and all the reptiles that crawl upon the earth."

and Wisdom 2:23:
"Yet God did make man imperishable,
he made him in the image of his own nature;
it was the devil's envy that brought death into the world,
as those who are his partners will discover."

and Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 17:1-4
"The Lord fashioned man from the earth,
to consign him back to it.
He gave them so many days' determined time,
he gave them authority over everything on earth."

Taking all those scriptures into consideration, it is clear that God did not establish Man to be above the angels. First, in looking at the Psalm itself in its full context, the Psalm indicates Man was granted dominion over the earth and the creatures of the earth; to wit, all the works of God's hands here on earth. Man, too, was fashioned from the earth he rules.

Looking also at the fact that the word "god" is not capitalized, the footnotes in the Bible ring true; the word is not referencing the Lord, and doesn't use the Tetragrammaton as it uses throughout the rest of the Psalm when speaking of the Lord. Rather, the reference to "mysterious beings" and the common language of the Greeks for "gods", used poetically to mean "angels" in the Hebrew context does make sense. Therefore, the Psalmist was not saying that Man had ever been higher than the angels. If so, where is the reference to Man being set above the angels? It isn't there.

Secondly, then, I looked to St. Thomas Aquinas. In the Summa Theologica, Q108. Article 8, Reply 2, he states, "The angels according to the order of nature are between us and God".

Now, that brings us to your second question:

I am aware that there is ONE human being that has risen above the Angels. That is, of course, the Queen of Angels the Holy Virgin Mary. Yet, I must consider that she is hardly the answer to that question. She is, after all, a VERY VERY SPECIAL human being. God touched her nature in a very special way at her very Conception. She had a very special relationship to God in His human life on Earth. And of course there is her EXTRAORDINARY virtue to consider. She has the whole package in a way no other human, that isn't also God, has had or will ever have again. If we were talking math and statistics, I would consider the Virgin Mary an OUTLYER than skews the results. I can't help but think, "Yeah, SHE is held in Higher esteem by our Lord than the Angels, but....Who ELSE could God hold closer to our older brothers, the Angels, than she? There can't be anyone else."

The Angels were created as pure spirit and in the beginning, had free will. It was the creation of Man and God's plan of salvation that brought about the division of angels and demons;  those who, led by Lucifer, cried out, "Non serviam! I will not serve!" made their final choice in that moment. That was the, for lack of a better term (in my vocabulary in any case) the particular judgment of the spiritual beings we call "Angels".  After that point, Angels no longer had free will because it was not and is not necessary.  Angels are more intelligent than we are, they are always privy to the Divine Processions, always gaze upon the face of God, and always did.

Man was not created with the intelligence, or even the capacity for the intelligence of the Angels. Man was never higher than the angels (except for Mary).

As you alluded to, through the action of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, God did indeed create Mary immaculately, preserving her from the stain of sin, and to her, He gave jurisdiction over the Angels. This is why she is called "Queen of the Angels" in one of her titles. It is why in art that the Archangel Gabriel kneels before her; the art is revealing this truth of who she was and more importantly, who she was asked to bear. It was her fiat that brought salvation into the world, and for this reason, she has been elevated the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Queen of Angels, Queen of Heaven.

Keep in mind that Mary also had free will; she could have refused the Angel's message. She could have said "no". But no, she bowed her head and in joyful humility proclaimed, "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy Word."

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

We know how this story ends!

I hope that helps, Jose, and I hope my very brief, in-a-nutshell explanation suffices! Please let me know where I have been unclear or of course, if I botched an explanation. This, of course, is not meant to be an entire theology of the angels, but there are some wonderful books out there that cover the subject. I believe. Fr. Groeschel has one and I can think of a few others as well. Unfortunately I can't recall their titles so hopefully someone will happen along and help us out!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Big Bad Wolf

I'll never forget taking my first dog I adopted as an adult to an obedience class. The instructor informed us in no uncertain terms that we have taken wolves into our homes and we should expect them to be...wolves. Not human babies. As strong as the temptation is to want to "humanize" our pets, it's the worst thing we can do, because of course, they don't think the same, they don't "feel" the same, and, well...their genetic makeup is fully canine.

He was right. 

Now that I've had several dogs, both my own and fosters, come through my home, I've come more and more to understand what he was talking about. Especially now.

A couple weeks ago I took in another foster, a mix of a couple of the most beloved breeds, and things were going well - until I took him in to the groomer. His nails were terribly overgrown and he was clearly in pain so I insisted we get this taken care of as soon as possible, and certainly before a pending adoption.

Unfortunately, the grooming didn't go well. I'd warned the groomer that he was sensitive about his nails and she was ready for him. She gave him a chance, he snapped at her so she went to get the muzzle. The groomer approached him with the muzzle, didn't even touch him when, without any warning whatsoever, the dog  lunged and bit her, drawing blood.

She's fine, but the dog's future is in question. I got him into the Rescue's vet this last week to get his nails trimmed, but because of the bite risk, the appointment was nearly as traumatic for me as it was for the dog. Both the dog's placement coordinator and I were careful to caution the staff not even to approach him with a muzzle or someone would be bitten. They prepped the sedatives and took even more precautions to ensure he wouldn't bite when the needle went in. (I think he's fine with needles but when a dog has bitten the logical thing is to ensure it doesn't happen again, especially when the dog is already stressed.)

My foster had to be given drugs twice and STILL had fight in him when it came to the muzzle. He was completely out...but when the muzzle approached he leapt into action. Actually bit the Vet Tech once, forcing him to have to get the "cat gloves" and the hapless (and brave!) VT would have been totally torn up without them by the time they were finally successful.

Indeed, the dog's nails were finally clipped, and the good Veterinarian did indeed deem it to be "medically necessary", even prescribed painkillers for what may be an arthritic knee. She was able to do a good exam while he was out cold (and muzzled), and I'm thankful - because he almost bit me a couple days later when I barely and unintentionally brushed against his bad knee.

So as it goes, my foster, whom I am calling "Aslan" because he has a huge mane and, well, isn't a "tame lion, you know", has a behavioral evaluation tomorrow. All the rescues are temperament tested before they go to a foster, but when problems are identified, they get more intense scrutiny.

Life in the Balance

I grew up hearing from our Mom that if our dog ever bit anyone, she would be "put down". No question. My Mom was raised on a farm and it was unacceptable for a family pet (usually kept outdoors in their case) to bite a human being. I don't disagree with that standard. However, I have come to realize there is room to allow for hope, and that also comes from the same Christian upbringing. While Jesus did not die for animals, he did give we humans dominion over them and the ability to use reason - and training - to properly steward these creatures.

Sometimes humans do horrible things to animals and cause behaviors the animals themselves would not choose if not completely traumatized. Some of those things CAN be overcome. A dog is not a shark; the taste of blood from a bite does not automatically mean that a dog will start biting indiscriminately. They don't have interest in that; they bite for a REASON. Find the reason and perhaps they can be saved.

That is the case with this dog. I'm sure of what happened to him:  his paws and nails were never handled and were totally neglected for care. When it came time that they HAD to be done, they didn't work with him, decided to muzzle, forced the muzzle on (again without training), took him down and hacked off the talons, probably causing pretty major pain. This probably happened more than once, and NOT by professionals, but by whoever owned the dog.

His aggression triggers seem to be limited to any kind of ongoing pain, his nails, muzzle - and anything that would be painful. This is a scary thing. Right now he can't be trusted; even I won't push him if I'm not sure how he's going to react. I'm careful to watch every bit of his body language so as to avoid setting him off.

Tomorrow, I'm taking this boy to the Rescue's Behaviorist for an evaluation. My understanding is that the Behaviorist will trip "Aslan's" triggers with what we know and I guess, push the envelope in other ways as well. She will determine if we can work to desensitize him and give me instructions as to how to go about it.

Years ago I had a dog who was both fear-aggressive (nonspecific triggers) and had major separation anxiety. While it's nice to have had that experience under my belt, and while that past experience helps me to have no irrational fear about the dog in my care now, I claim no expertise. This is very much a learning experience and as this is not my dog but merely a foster, his LIFE depends upon tomorrow's meeting and what I am able to do, with the Behaviorist and the dog going forward.

So...I realize many people have had bad experiences with dogs and may have grown up just as I did, with the equation of "Bite = Death". Please let me introduce this dog to you in the way I see him every day:

"Aslan" is the perfect gentleman inside the house.  He sits on command, is completely housetrained, stays in my room at night and remains quiet even when my usually-quiet GSD barks at something.  I usually wake up to find "Aslan" lying directly next to my bed waiting to greet me. When I do arise he tries to circle and is only hindered by his girth as he's about 30 pounds overweight. (He should weigh 50 - 60 lbs max but weighs over 91 lbs).

"Aslan" has probably lost a couple pounds since he came to me, and LOVES his walks. In the beginning he struggled with the short ones but now tries to lead the way and I have to keep him from crowding and "herding" me on our regular walks. On bad days, as he has maybe a little arthritis in his knee, he lags and may sit - that's become a cue to me to take him home.  For now he's on anti-inflammatories which hopefully will help and I think already have done so!

"Aslan" defers to my GSD (as Queen Bee of this house!) and prefers the floor to the dog bed but still finds his way to the dog-designated futon when it suits him. He's directable and loveable. He loves attention, wants to be petted, knows how to "shake" and takes treats so perfectly an infant could offer it to him without a mother's moment of worry.

The other day I discovered "Aslan" likes it when I sing, but tonight, I learned his favorite song is "Lil' Red Riding Hood", Amanda Seyfried's version. The very moment I began singing he sat up, after awhile started to vocalize every time I stopped, and when I sat on the floor, still singing, he came over, laid his head in my lap, rolled over so I could rub his (considerable!) belly, and then stood only so that he could turn around and sit in my lap to be petted.

This is a wonderful dog and it breaks my heart that he has been so traumatized that his fear has driven him to draw blood from human beings. "Aslan's" nature is to be someone's buddy. He's protective, he's cuddly, and he's obedient.

And his life is in danger; not because of the Rescue or because of me, but because some people in his past have so traumatized an innocent creature to the degree that we may be unable to un-ring that particular bell.


There are some who think the lives of animals mean nothing, or try to compare the lives of human babies to those of animals. There is no comparison. As a Catholic, I know it is both-and. While I give far more weight to the life of a human child, that does not mean that some of us have not been called to the area of Catholic Social Teaching in the area of Stewardship for Creation. I am not a mother, I do not have children. I am Pro-Life and work professionally with religious organizations that promote the end to abortion and contraception.

But in my personal time, because I am able, I find I can help some animals, I have gifts in this area, and right now there is a life in my care. Some human beings in this dog's past put his life in danger through really horrible abuse, and all the work I do with this I offer in reparation on behalf of those who hurt him. I have hope that this dog will respond to training and hope that tomorrow's evaluation will go well. I am assured of support from the entire Rescue.

Everything I do for animals I do even more for human beings, for every service to the former is ordered to the eternal life of the latter.

And since now I know "Aslan's" favorite song, I will sing it to him as often as necessary to tame the bad wolf within him.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Thanks to all of you who continue to follow my blog, in spite of such sporadic and non-specific posts.

Let me give you a little humor.

Today, Tim the Director of Custodial Services, visited my realm. I heard him come in and as I was heading out on another errand met him in our "foyer"

Tim said to me, "I'm looking for a missing broom, wondering if you have it here somewhere."

I told him, "Oh, I took it and rode off on it last night."

He turned to walk away, tossing over his shoulder, "Well, ya shoulda rode it back!"

Friday, April 13, 2012

What is the Value of a Single Human Life?

This is a fundamental question in our society. It doesn't just touch on the huge moral (and secondarily, political) topics of abortion and euthanasia, but on something far more common:  it hits us all, every single day in every single human interaction.

I recently began re-reading a book series that was beloved to me in my youth: Lloyd Alexander's  The Chronicles of Prydain, beginning with The Book of Three.

Early on in the story, the protagonist, Taran, meets the great Warrior Prince Gwydion, his hero, and upon meeting him is both awed and disappointed. The man in person does not meet his mental image of a "hero" nor does he encourage it. He reveals his humility and wisdom when the passionate Taran suggest the two of them go against the Horned King alone.

"Then we should stop him," Taran declared. "Attack him, strike him down! Give me a sword and I will stand with you!"
"Gently, gently," chided Gwydion. "I do not say my life is worth more than another man's, but I prize it highly. Do you think a lone warrior and one Assistant Pig-Keeper dare attack the Horned King and his war band?"
Taran drew himself up. "I would not fear  him."
"No?" said Gwydion. "Then you are a fool. He is the man most to be dreaded in all Prydain..."

Ahh. What a beautiful dialogue to demonstrate the point. Here we have a lowly commoner (like most of us), and we have a Great Hero, actual royalty, even! And when the commoner wants him on a pedestal and seeks in his own pride to raise himself to the level of his hero, the humility of the hero brings him back to earth, even to the degree of calling him a "fool"!

Can you imagine such a rebuke? (Does it perhaps call to mind Jesus rebuking Peter by saying "Get behind me Satan!" or to James and John by calling them the "Sons of Thunder"?)

I couldn't move on from this passage, especially a single seemingly-insignificant line from Prince Gwydion:  "I do not say my life is worth more than another man's, but I prize it highly."

There it is. What is the value of life? Is there any such thing as one life being more valuable than another? In any give situation, who determines who should live and who should die? In any given human exchange, who is owed more respect or less respect?

Our current society is driven by hero worship. Never before in history have celebrities been such a huge force behind politics and causes. People did not used to follow mere actors, whose trade was to entertain the masses. Now, it matters not if someone is educated; it matters only that they are beautiful and popular and "in".

That is not to say that those who are "celebrities" necessarily buy into this image of themselves; I would not accuse them of valuing themselves above others, but rather, I cast the role of naive and starstruck Taran upon the American public at large.

The problem is we don't see the humility of the Prince in the story in those we as a public perceive to be our "leaders". We don't see moral fortitude (or any solid moral compass at all), and when it comes to celebrities, even the popular spokesactors haven't a leg to stand on when questioned in most cases. They are but straw idols to be cast upon the wind and torn apart by crows when the appetite suits them. They become victims of the same society that elevated them seemingly only to eventually rip them to shreds.

So let us speak directly then, of politics. Every few years it is a tidal wave of politics, a tsunami that never really goes away, but seems to regather and build for an even greater assault every four years.

I am always left scratching my head over the adulation given to certain politicians, and in contemporary society: Obama. I can't understand why he wasn't vetted and vilified as were the other candidates, and I was shocked when he was never forced to answer tough questions in previous presidential debates.  He didn't like the question he just said, "Let's move on." and they did.

I make no apology: I don't like Obama, and I have often thought, and even stated that if I were ever to meet him, I would refuse to shake his hand. His clear anti-life status, his abuse of our natural-law and Constitutional freedoms, his various methods of America-bashing in other countries, his constant prideful faux-pas in "gifts" to other Heads of State, his obvious dismay and outright attempts to crush out any legitimate criticism of himself and his policies, his attempts to crush religious freedom...all for his own power and his own glory. I despise him as a man and I am offended as what he has done to the Office of President.

And there, those last words, that's what stop me. Office. Office of President.

Many years ago I considered the Secret Service, researched it a bit and pondered for myself the role the Agents take. They agreed that they would take a bullet for the President! What a noble cause! How beautiful a way to die!

Except that ultimately, I didn't want to die for the President. I thought it would be a nice idea, but, no, no, if I was going to die for someone, I wanted to die for someone I cared about. Someone more  Someone who came from my community, lived their life and perhaps had something terrible happen to them. Someone..normal. Not someone whose life was "more valuable" than that of the average person.

I was raised to respect authority, and certainly, I do. I also learned through trial and error that respect may be owed to a particular position, but the person who holds that particular role may not be worthy of that respect; but one gives it anyway. Not for the person, but for their Office.

This is why those Secret Service Agents who protect the President can do so even if they disagree with him or even personally despise him. They do it because they defend NOT the man, but the Office. They can recognize that his life is worth no more or less than their own. What IS valuable is the office he holds, for if the Office falls, so does the country.

I have to realize, because of this, that if I ever do meet Obama and am in a position to shake his hand, I must do so, not because I respect him as a man (for I don't), but because I respect the Office of President of the United States, and it is right and just to give it and him as a human being, simple respect. I respect the fact he was created in the image and likeness of God, no matter how he has chosen to distort that image (for I am a sinner, too, and am also distorted.)

Ah! But What of Life? For Anyone? What of the Everyday?

Most of us won't meet political heavies or celebrities or royalty. Most of us just go about our lives every day and try to eke out our existence, work with people professionally and of course, simply try to keep our heads down and shoulders to the grindstone.

But if we're pressed and if we really think about it, we DO tend to give more value to certain lives than we do to others.

Think about it. In the workplace, do you treat EVERYONE with the same respect? Or do you treat the CEO with more?  How do you speak to the CEO in comparison to the IT guy locked in the basement? How to you treat your Pastor versus the Mechanic doing your brakes? How do you treat the Parish Council member versus the elderly confused lady who asks random questions and speaks about random things you know nothing about?

How many average human interactions every single day cause you to change your level of respect and interior admiration or desire for approval according to the person standing before you?

Whose life is worth more?

Is any life worth more than another?

Do the wealthy deserve more respect? Or should we not give the same respect to the poor?  To the person we dislike? To the person we like? To the person who is lost, the person who serves us in some way, the person we serve by employment or other obligation?

The issue of Life isn't to be compartmentalized; it's not just about abortion and euthanasia, but is part of our everyday lives, in every moment, every interaction.

It doesn't mean we have to like or approve of everyone. It doesn't mean we have to "respect" someone in the sense of placing them on a pedestal. What the call to value life means is this: we must hold ALL to the highest standard, we must give ALL basic human respect and it should not matter whether we are speaking the Pope, the President, the CEO, the Janitor, the Stable groom, the Housekeeper, the Pastor, the Mechanic, the Cashier, the Religious Sister, or the homeless guy on the corner. (Hint: learn his name!)

Life is life. In Genesis, we learn that blood, the symbol of Life, belongs to God alone. So it was that God Himself, through His Only Son Jesus Christ offered His blood so that we might live for eternity. Jesus gave us the example of holiness we are all to live. He did teach to respect Civic leaders, but in practice, to be like Himself.

Personalities and politics are not part of God's Kingdom; they are of the world. We are called, through Baptism to bring about the Kingdom of God in word and deed, and foundational to this is respect for all Life, and to know that every human being is willed and loved by God. It's not a matter of political action, but in how we all live our lives. It matters not if we pray outside an abortuary and then return to our regular lives and bash our neighbors and coworkers.

We have to catch ourselves when we find we are caught in the trap of valuing one life over another, and remember to find Christ in them, somewhere, recalling they, too, are known and loved.

I fall very, very short of this, every single day, and pray one day I may finally practice what I am incoherently trying to preach.

** Disclaimer:  I am not stating that the Truth should not be taught  and I am all for condemning the moral attack upon our society, namely abortion, homosexual "marriage", euthanasia, the Health Mandate, the attack upon religious freedom, etc. These things are ideas, not people. In this post I am attempting to focus on basic human discourse, no matter what our position. Every life is a gift from God and we need to treat every life we meet according to that reality, and THEN address the darkness within us that makes us into total idiots.***

Monday, April 09, 2012

The Looming Shadow of the Cross

I get it. I "get" that it's the Octave of Easter and we're all supposed to be joyful and happy and bubbling over with over-enthusiasm because Jesus Christ has RISEN! ALLELUIA!

Yes, I DO believe, and I KNOW, without a doubt, that God condescended to become one of us, suffered the ransom for our sin through punishment and a really torturous, horrible death, and was buried. I believe He descended into Hell to seek out our first parents, Adam and Eve, and all the others who had gone to Gehenna to await the Messaiah, and freed them.

Yes, I believe, but this year, I remain in the Passion. I celebrate liturgically, but personally, I'm not "feelin'" it and let me just say this:  this is exactly why our Faith is not about emotion.

One of the reasons I am Catholic is also because I do not have to "feel" the liturgical season and be smiley and happy just because, for the 2011th time we've celebrated the Resurrection of Christ.  I'm thrilled that others are happy and I am overjoyed interiorly about all the "HE IS RISEN!" accolades posted by my friends an acquaintances online.  One of the cool things about being Catholic is that we know the Cross is always with us and just because we celebrate something liturgically, it is not a requirement to experience it emotionally. Life happens and it is the Cross that makes it meaningful.  It is the Cross and Resurrection that define EVERYTHING.

So it is that we continue to suffer the Passion of the type God gives us even as we liturgically celebrate with the Christian world. We may be crushed by the weight of the Cross, but we always look to the Resurrection, for were it not for that, the weight upon us would be far too heavy to bear. And in that is a kind of joy that cannot be expressed through mere words or smiley-faces or platitudes.


Holy Thursday was beautiful but busy, and I attended my own parish, wishing I could remain for Adoration at the Altar of Repose, but no, immediately after I had to leave due to family obligations.

It had been proposed several weeks ago that we take our mother to a Latin Good Friday Liturgy. On Friday morning, therefore, I loaded the car and went on a long drive to my brother's home in hopes of attending with them. Thankfully we'd done our research and knew the available Latin liturgies and how long it would take to arrive.

That's when the Cross came to us. 

When I arrived at my brother's home, he greeted me with grim news:  Mom was not doing well. He didn't know what was going on, exactly, but explained the previous evening she'd gone to the ER because she felt her throat closing up. She was apparently diagnosed with an allergy of some sort because they gave her Benadryl. Someone drove her home and my brother's fiance' was going to pick her up and drive her to her car, then on to my brother's house in time to leave for Good Friday services.

Well, he was concerned, because Mom was confused on the phone, expressed she couldn't walk, and said she was driving anyway.  I called her and she sounded fine, said she'd realized she hadn't eaten (she'd diabetic and cannot fast on our required days), so ate and was better. As she wasn't slurred, I hung up and didn't order her to pull over and wait for us as I'd originally intended to do.

She arrived some time later and clearly, was having trouble walking. My brother expressed that this was how she'd behaved just after her blood sugar crisis after her angiogram last summer - a crisis that had landed her in the hospital for 5 days.  She insisted she hadn't eaten so we gave her food and made the decision to take her to the Liturgy. It was unspoken that we'd divert or call for help if her condition deteriorated in any way.

Unfortunately, we are like shell-shocked children: we are so accustomed to crisis and weirdness as a baseline that we are completely unable to assess when our own mother should have proper medical care. When crisis is the standard, it takes a great deal to make the decision to involve the hospital...yet again.

As it turned out, we had to nearly carry Mom into the church, give her time to rest in a back pew, find a bathroom for her, walk her there, have her nearly fall in a psychological panic, watch her walk normally when it was convenient for her, deal with her nearly falling over when there were witnesses.  It wasn't a matter of just one thing, but a combination of medical and psychological. I refused to give in to "crisis mode" and became the firm caregiver. I'm sure I appeared quite heartless to people in that particular parish when my mother nearly fell and grabbed onto me. I held her up while stating over and over again, "You're fine."  without emotion and without coddling.

It's like raising an attention-seeking toddler: give in to emotion and turn the incident into a full-blown temper tantrum.

We sat near the front of the church so Mom could see (and so we'd have a quick escape need be), and close proximity to the altar rail as we'd be approaching it twice.

Mom seemed to follow along decently, mostly listened. I knew this was the first Latin liturgy she'd heard for over 50 years. For my brother and his girlfriend it was a first.  Unfortunately, the parish did not have decent guides (most people attending this liturgy were regulars and had Missals - I had forgotten and left mine home).  So it was that we followed what we could, I gave what little guidance I could, and, well, worried about Mom the entire time. I think my brother and I exchanged more glances in that 2 hour liturgy than we ever had at any other point in our entire lives.

When it was time for the Veneration of the Cross, we stood to go, and Mom moved as if to let me by.  I bent down to ask her if she wanted to venerate the Cross. She stared at me blankly. I had to repeat it a couple times while signaling my brother to wait. The line was already moving but that was fine...I was sure they would let us in but we didn't want anyone held up  by our slowness.

Finally she understood, nodded, and my brother and I lifted her and, flanking her, walked her out of the pew and into the aisle. The people were kind and allowed us to enter. We proceeded forward slowly, which was no problem in this particular veneration. The person in front of our trio venerated and moved aside. My brother and I glanced at the woman in the other line, waiting but she stood back, nodding at us to proceed.  We both nodded in thanks (I think?), and brought Mom forward to the Cross so that she could bend and kiss the feet of Christ. The altar servers actually assisted by lifting the Crucifix slightly for her.  Then my brother, then, although my mother tried to turn, by my brother's gentle prompting, she waited so that I could move forward.

I don't ever recall seeing so much detail in blood and nail on the feet of Jesus as I kissed Him.

What was happening was not lost on me.

As we turned and hobbled back at a snails' pace, people lining up behind us, Mom announced she had to go to the bathroom again, so we took her on the long trek in that direction.

I noticed she walked normally between the stall and the sink to wash her hands but the second that was over, she returned to her "helpless" state, obligating my brother and I, once she was in the hallway, to bear her up again and constantly direct her to stop looking at her feet, but rather, look ahead. Yet every time another person approached, she'd panic and we'd be holding her up as one would a person drowning in the ocean.

At one point, Mom's panic aside, I smiled at some children on their way also to the bathroom, stepping aside so that they could proceed, indicating they should go.  We were making a spectacle, holding up traffic everywhere, and not by necessity. Yet...all around us deferred to us, even though we were strangers among them.  It was no matter: we were Catholic and therefore, we were family.  

It was a repeat at Communion and the first time in 50 years Mom was able to kneel at the Communion rail to receive Our Lord. Because of her physical problems I advised her to stand but lean (and said she could lean on me as I knelt) since kneeling would be so hard for her. But no, she knelt and received. Our relatives came behind us not to receive as they could not, but to assist, and again, as we lifted her up and carried her back to her pew, the people of this very reverent, traditional parish waited and moved as they could to allow us to pass.

After it was over my brother got the car to pick her up and we took her home, ordering her to check her sugar, wondering if we should go to the ER or, by then, because she was improving, perhaps "wait and see".

Holy Saturday

Although we'd planned to attend the Vigil together, I went alone out of a personal obligation, and as Mom still had problems walking, she remained home. By the time I arrived back, Mom was in bed although she did join us around 1 am for some time, at which point we learned there was an "aftercare" document given to her by the ER. A document she hadn't shared with my brother and stated, last night, that she "couldn't understand no matter how many times she read it."

The document was clear:  first, she should not have driven at all to my brother's home. (We knew that and had told her to stay home as she was not well.)  All her symptoms required a return to the ER, but because we've gotten so used to both real and psychosomatic behavior as "normal" for her, we did not follow this.  Had we had that document in hand, we would not have attended Good Friday, but would have spent that time in the ER instead.

Last night, my brother and I both confronted Mom on her need to give us the documents from her ER and other doctor visits, and reiterated to each other that we HAVE to talk to her doctor and perhaps get her into an Assisted Living facility that has greater supervision than the minimal facility she is in now (which has only pull cords).

It was not an easy conversation and I left it to take my dog out, where I took the time to take a deep breath and say a quick prayer of apology and request for help.

Easter Sunday

He is Risen!

Yes, He is Risen Indeed, but Mom is nearing the end of her days.

This is the part where people feel the need to quote platitudes about hope and the Cross and the Resurrection and such. And this is exactly why such platitudes are so offensive.

In the midst of the Cross, there is no such thing as comfort. The road to Calvary must be walked, it is awful for all involved. This is where we find fortitude, perseverance, and hope - through experience, not through trite sayings.

The Cross does not disappear just because we liturgically celebrate the Resurrection. Easter in the world does not end temporal suffering. It all continues.

What I say it this:  it is the Cross that gives meaning to it all. It is not about emotion or candy or roasting lambs on a spit in the front yard with a red velvet lamb cake decorated with peeps for dessert.

It is ok to enter into suffering even in the most liturgically joyful Octave of our Calender. In fact, perhaps it is this suffering that reveals the Holiness the most, for it is for THIS that Christ suffered and died.  THIS suffering, RIGHT NOW.  For everyone, In all moments, the big and the little ones, ALL.

The Cross looms for all, for none of us will pass into Eternity without first passing through the Cross.

Friday, April 06, 2012


Last night was Holy Thursday, the beginning of our 3-Day Mass consisting of Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday for some Christian religions who observe it liturgically), Good Friday - the commemoration of the Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord, Holy Saturday which recalls Jesus' descent into Hell to free the Holy Souls from Gehenna, and this culminates after darkfall with the Easter Vigil as we anticipate and celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. It ends finally with Easter Sunday, and each Mass, whether daybreak or later, includes different Biblical readings to set the tone according to historical reality.  It is the most unique Sunday and the most important...and it can't truly be experienced alone, for the Vigil and Easter Sunday are the climax of Holy Week and most especially, of the final 3 days.

It is usually my practice to remain for at least an hour at the Altar of Repose after the Holy Thursday liturgy, but last night I could not. I had to get home to prepare for the next few days, so after a brief visit to Jesus and apologies, I set for home.

Instead of my Adoration time, I watched "The Passion of the Christ", interrupted by laundry and other preparations.

Still, my time in waiting has been spent praying through the movie, bringing the historical and spiritual reality of the Sacred Triduum into my very home, into my very heart and soul, once again.

Although several things have stricken me (as they do every time), this year I have focused my prayer on the intent of Pilate and actions of Christ in response.  Specifically when Pilate brings Jesus before the crowd, after His scourging.

Who can not be moved by such a sight?

Jesus has been scourged and is brought before the people, bound, bloodied from the terrible scourging that hasn't left an inch of skin untouched, a cap (crown) of thorns driven not just into the skin, but through bone. And still he is covered in spit, his face is swollen to the degree of being misshapen, and a soiled cloak (soiled by only God knows what) has been placed over his shoulders mocking him as "King of the Jews".

Pilate, hoping for mercy, pulls Jesus to the forefront, proclaiming to the crowd, pleading, "BEHOLD the Man!

He weeps for Jesus, although does not show his "tears" to the people. He beholds Our Lord and sees what He has suffered, and hopes for mercy..but he does not pray, for Pilate is a pagan and does not believe in God, or the Son of God before him. But he does understand the belief of the people and pleads with them to respond with mercy to the plight of the suffering man before him.

Pilate does not understand what is about, but offers the last option: a revolutionary, a despicable murderer, the worst crime that could be committed in the taking of human life. He compares Bar-Abbas to Iesu, demanding the crowd to make a choice, an obvious one: Jesus, who hasn't fought back, who has suffered silently, or Bar-Abbas as disgusting a person as he actually looks even without being completely beat up and bloodied.

Mark this, it is no mistake that the man whose name means "Son of the Father" was traded to freedom in order to condemn the man who is, truly, the Son of God.

And the crowd demands the blood of Jesus. Violently. 

Pilate didn't want Jesus to go to his suffering and death, but his sin was this:  allowing it. He feared so much for his own standing that he allowed an innocent man to die. Yet Jesus still freed him, for Jesus himself pointed out to Pilate that the sins of those who sent Him (Jesus) to Pilate were greater. He didn't let Pilate off the hook, but rather, pointed out the gravity of sin and the fact that actually, Pilate's sin was weakness (venial), whereas those who sent Our Lord to the Cross by accusation and advocation were guilty of a GREATER sin. Mortal sin, actually.

Look again, and look hard.

Pilate brought Jesus before the crowd, holding Him there,


Behold Him indeed!  Behold Him, to takes away the sins of the world! Behold Jesus, who suffered this and more for YOUR sins!

Pilate SCREAMED these words, ECCE HOMO! for all to hear, for this was long before sound systems existed. He screamed with his voice, his entire being, to reach the crowd.

It wasn't screamed in gloating, but in desperate pleading. Final pleading.


But it WASN'T enough. By human terms it WAS enough, but by the screeching of the crowds, it wasn't anywhere near sufficient. They screamed all the more,


And they didn't know it, but even by their screeching for His demise, they were saved...if they chose to accept Him later.

Jesus didn't die "for all", as some would have by the human-created doctrine of comfort,  but rather "for many", for our own cooperation is a requirement of our salvation. The God who created us without our permission does not save us without it.