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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Finding a Family on Facebook

I am a big fan of Facebook.  Even when it has caused me pain, or I have had to cause pain to others, I am still in awe of the power of this particular social media platform.  The brainchild of two Harvard Upper Crust Twins and a guy who once just "this" shy of being a complete social outcast has opened up the world for people, given them something to do, reconnected them with old friends and helped them go deeper into their Faith Tradition.

It is a fantastic thing.

Today I was struck by the incredible connection I have made with people in some of the groups to which I belong.  I am a member of a Scottish Terrier Owners group (though I am still mourning the loss of my Duffy and have not yet replaced him), a couple of San Francisco Forty-Niner Faithful groups, some Catholic groups, a fitness for us older women group, a group that dissects my favorite zombie show and a group of Italian Americans.

Everyone of those groups has welcomed me with love, open arms, acceptance and kindness.

The 12 Step groups?

Hmmmm....not so much.

To be fair, the local ones are pretty great.  They almost have to be, of course, because we see each other at meetings and we do want to make sure we are walking our talk, especially on line.  Oh sure, I recently had to block a member but he is young, very angry at me and thinks he knows everything so it is no loss to either of us.  Trust me, he is better off without me in his life and I know I am in great shape since not having to look at his weirdly self conscious postings.

I tried to participate in a big international 12 Step group on Facebook and it just got out of hand.  People seemed bound and determined to prove what a sober bad ass they are and God forbid you posted something that was framed as 'it has been my experience'. The minute you do the Super Sober Step Police would jump on the poster with all four feet.  I did not participate a lot - I just read the posts and quite frankly, these types were just too Alpha Male for me (and that included the women).

The group that has really touched my heart lately is one based on where I grew up as a child.  I have to admit I lived in an almost magical place - the suburbs of the 1950's and 1960's where children were more likely to have a run in with a cow or a bobcat than a pedophile or a meth freak with an insatiable desire to find out what it feels like to put their penis in the ear of a six month old child.  We were of different faiths, mostly white and Hispanic and had, for the most part, intact families.  I know I was the first child of divorce in my neighborhood and in typical fashion everyone took my Mom's side but all the women were afraid their husbands would hit on her.  She carried herself with such incredible grace and dignity, however, that their fear soon abated.  I was raised with everyone's mother looking out for me and for that I am extremely grateful.

Through the Italian American group I have found a fun and loving group of men and women who share my values, my Faith Tradition (mostly) and my love for connection to my Italian roots.  They are good people...and I have never met any of them face-to-face.

Through the Scottish Terrier group I have connected with someone who may have a dog for me to adopt.

Through my Catholic groups I have learned more and more about the Early Church Fathers and been able to help orphans in Nigeria and India.

I have helped my nephew raise money for football gloves for his team and I have been able to see my baby cousins who live WAAAAAAAY across the country grow from wee tots to little people with marvelous personalities.

All in all, I have enjoyed Facebook.

No one can predict, of course, what will happen in their life.  I have lost and gained much over the past 59 years on this planet and I expect this will continue.  I am, however, incredibly encouraged by my experience with Facebook.  I am encouraged because I see what good can come from being responsibly active on Social Media.  I am encouraged because I see what happens when people make the conscious decision to do good rather than evil, to bring God into every part of their life.

To my surprise, I am finding a family on Facebook.....and that cannot be a bad thing.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

How to Live a life, Second to None

Learning to walk with grace and dignity is not an easy thing to do.  In the past year I have had to do things like block people on Facebook, refuse to engage in online discussions  and withdraw from friendships that were causing me and my family physical and emotional pain.  It has not been an easy year, but it has been a good one because I have grown.  I have learned to take difficult action and to do so from a position of Love rather than anger.

I do not hate any of these people.  They may consider my writings 'passive agressive' or label my posts 'subtweets'.  I chose not to use specific names or situations to protect them, not to hurt them.  If they wish to accuse me of being evil, go ahead.  I have nothing to be ashamed of and I did not do anything wrong.  Those who wish to believe otherwise are free to do so, but I am not interested in your opinion.  Please share it with someone else.  If they wish to speak directly to me about their feelings it is to be done in public with witnesses, so that my safety is assured.

None of this is easy but the last I checked no one ever promised me that my life would be easy.

In the previous week I was handed a real heart breaking disappointment.  I had hoped to be able to get a job closer to home but I was not chosen for the position, though I got really close and those who had put my name forward for that job were shocked that I didn't get picked.  Because of this,  I will have a really long commute and I will be further from my 93 year old mother in the event she needs me.

As you can imagine I was really hurt and sad.  I felt rejected.  My ego was bruised.  I was embarrassed.  I felt just awful.  I cried and I wondered why and fell into a bit of despair and wondered what was wrong with me.

I will never know why I was rejected but I can speculate.  Because I will never know I will need to accept this and move on.

While I know I have to accept this situation - after all, I cannot change it - I wondered what it was about the emotions I felt around losing this job that could lead me to deeper spiritual growth.

During this particular Season, the Season of Lent, I am praying with my Catholic community and meditating on the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting and preparing for the Greatest Act of Love ever witnessed by human beings.   I am focused on the Paschal Mystery and what my Lord and Savior experienced when He sacrificed all for me.

He was hounded and molested and misunderstood.  He was falsely accused by those whose feathers He ruffled and eventually He was beaten and murdered by authorities who wanted Him to shut up.

My tiny little feelings of being rejected, of not being loved, wanted or good enough or whatEVER pale in comparison to what my Savior did for me.  Yet, in that small example, He allows me to enter slightly into His Passion.  He proves to me that I have a God that knows exactly what it feels like to be considered 'not enough' - and we, as people, continue to reject Him every time we give in to sin.

I am blessed - I did not fall deeper into despair.  I am blessed - I can go to Mass this morning without having to worry about being murdered simply because I WANT to go to Mass.  I am blessed - I have a job, I have a nice place to live, I have my health and I have people in my life who love me and challenge me without being cruel or constantly angry.

I cannot complain about my life - how wonderful is that?

How blessed am I to be able to experience all this during the Season of Lent.

I am off to Mass.  Thank you for letting me share!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Social Justice and the Average Catholic

Catholic social teaching is based on and inseparable from our understanding of human life and human dignity. Every human being is created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ, and therefore is invaluable and worthy of respect as a member of the human family. Every person, from the moment of conception to natural death, has inherent dignity and a right to life consistent with that dignity. Human dignity comes from God, not from any human quality or accomplishment.

---from Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions.

Listen to the discussion on the social media platforms today and one would be confused as to exactly what constitutes Catholic Social Teaching today. 

Are we a bunch of socialists?  Are we patriotic right wingers?  Are we a bunch of old white men squashing the 'reproductive rights' of poor downtrodden women? 

As a child growing up in the 1950's and 1960's I was used to seeing men and women clothed in religious garb on the front lines of the Civil Rights movement.  They were hosed down in Selma, beaten in Georgia, harassed and screamed at on the streets of Mobile.  Because they were white they were denigrated with horrible labels meant to ostracize them from the rest of white society.  Because they proudly wore their Roman collars and their habits they were denigrated by those who viewed the Catholic Church as the Whore of Babylon and the Pope as the Anti-Christ.

Today, because of the decades old priest pedophile scandal as well as a tendency to view actions taken in the 1940's and 1950's through the secular eyes of the 21st Century, many of our religious are again ostracized by popular society.  Though no longer wearing the white hooded robes of the KKK, the same kind of hatred and vitriol is spewed at them as they bravely walk the streets of places like Berkeley, California or New York City.  Forgetting that, when no one else is willing, these men and women put themselves into the world of the poorest of the poor every day.  They live their lives, cry with them, laugh with them, beg with them and try to provide some comfort - all because they have been commanded to do so by Jesus Christ.

So many people distort our teachings because they are hung up on specifics.  They scream about denying abortion or abortifacients to women without understanding the depth of the ideas the Catholic Church holds dear - that every person, no matter who, what or why they exist are endowed with an inherent human dignity that nothing - even their own depraved and ugly acts - can destroy.  We can cover up our image and likeness but we cannot deny in whose image and likeness we were created.  Unlike classical Protestant teaching - that human beings are depraved and therefore unable to be completely transformed by the power of Grace through the Sacraments - Catholics acknowledge that we are, ultimately, the product of Love.

St Augustine spoke of the how of creation by explaining that the Triune God is a society in an of itself, based on Love and full of Love and that Love 'spilled out' resulting in Creation.  My very existence is due to Love.  While I may act in discord with that foundation I cannot destroy it.  I am a daughter of God.  I matter.

For the average Catholic, the corporal works of mercy are a necessity of our lives.  We must feed and clothe and visit and tend and heal and counsel because our Faith is not separate from our Works.  If you cannot see that there is something different about us then we are not demonstrating what is necessary to be seen as a Christian.

Does this mean we are perfect?  No.  We are fallen humans and we struggle with sin every day.  Does it mean we can count on being 'saved'?  No.  Salvation is not a one time thing - accept Jesus Christ in to your heart, say the sinner's prayer and you are guaranteed a free ride to heaven.  NOPE.  That is a false and dangerous teaching that has lead many weak Catholics away from The Truth. 

Catholic Social Teaching is the embodiment of the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Faith, without works, is dead...and the greatest of the virtues is not faith but Love.  Catholics have to embrace the whole thing or else we will stand at the end of time before Him....and not be recognized.

Today I hope to run the race with the kind of dedication the Church requires of Her children.  I know I cannot do it on my own.  I know I cannot earn my salvation...but I also know I must demonstrate it.

For that reason I do what I can to walk the talk, one day at a time.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Friendship - What Does it Mean?

2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

Recently I have given a great deal of thought to what a true and lasting friendship should be and it occurs to me that it, like anything else in my life, must mirror my relationship with Christ and His Church.  I am called to be a complete Christian.  I cannot bifurcate my life and only be a Catholic Out Loud when it suits me or when it is safe to be so or when it is easy because everything is going my way.  In that same manner, if I am to give myself to someone in friendship I must be willing to let them know the complete me and I must be willing to look at them with the eyes of Christ. 

Now, in today's world we are so childish we misinterpret the above sentiment to mean that a real friend puts no expectations on us, does not hold us to any standard of behavior and will put up with any falderrahl and goofiness we wish to dish out.  When someone says to us, "Hey, you do not get to do that here!" we are hurt and puzzled.  Aren't they are friend?  Aren't they supposed to love us with Christian Love and accept us for who we are, come what may?

This attitude of babyish demands for acceptance is perpetrated by Facebook Memes and Pineterest Posts.  'A Real Friend Will Always Be There No Matter What You Do' is the dominant theme, words usually written over a background of a woman with long dark hair, wearing a flowing dress, either standing on a cliff over looking the sea or walking along the beach or a long dusty road.  They are usually alone.

I am convinced they are alone because no one wants to be around them. 

If the meme does have two humans in it, it is usually a picture of two children around the age of 5. 

Our society today has mistaken true friendship for kind of disinterested hedonism.  If you are to be my friend then by golly you better accept me for exactly who I am right this minute, and don't you dare put any expectations on me.  After all, I am perfect - Mama's little darling and Daddy's little delight.  I get trophies for showing up on time and if I want something you better give it to me right now!  I am six years old when I am close to 40 and I am whiny and I am demanding that you tell me I am beautiful when my behavior is atrocious. 

I just do not think this is real friendship.

If my behavior is supposed to mirror the behavior of Christ, I must be willing to look at what my friendship with Christ is - and Christ puts demands on me.  Christ commands me to behave in a certain way.  If I do not take certain actions, Christ will claim He does not know me.  If I choose to behave in ways that cause Him pain, He will never stop loving me but He will not allow me into His Kingdom.

Why would someone on earth be expected to be different?

If I behave in a way that is contrary to social norms, that causes pain or anguish to someone, that is disrespectful and angry and demanding and childish why in the world would I expect them to allow me to be a part of their life? 

And why would I ever think that anyone who did not expect me to live up to my potential and a true Child of God be anything other than a false friend?

Nope, I cannot hold to that idea.  I think, and I believe and I live, that it is my responsibility to hang with those who want the best of me.  I think I would be foolish to hang out with anyone who rubber stamps my emotional tantrums, my bad behavior, my unwillingness to be a better Leslie one day at a time.

So, for me friendships mean more than just being able to hang out in a coffee shop.  I want people in my life who want my highest good.

What do you want in your life?

Monday, February 23, 2015

You Owe Me!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

1906 By common good is to be understood "the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily."26 The common good concerns the life of all. It calls for prudence from each, and even more from those who exercise the office of authority. It consists of three essential elements:
1907 First, the common good presupposes respect for the person as such. In the name of the common good, public authorities are bound to respect the fundamental and inalienable rights of the human person. Society should permit each of its members to fulfill his vocation. In particular, the common good resides in the conditions for the exercise of the natural freedoms indispensable for the development of the human vocation, such as "the right to act according to a sound norm of conscience and to safeguard . . . privacy, and rightful freedom also in matters of religion."27 1908 Second, the common good requires the social well-being and development of the group itself. Development is the epitome of all social duties. Certainly, it is the proper function of authority to arbitrate, in the name of the common good, between various particular interests; but it should make accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life: food, clothing, health, work, education and culture, suitable information, the right to establish a family, and so on.28 1909 Finally, the common good requires peace, that is, the stability and security of a just order. It presupposes that authority should ensure by morally acceptable means the security of society and its members. It is the basis of the right to legitimate personal and collective defense.

I have heard a lot of people demanding their rights lately and it got me thinking.  If I understand them correction, if I want something that you (or a group) has that want is a right.

To question my want is to indicate that you want to deprive me of my right to have that want, whatever it is, and that makes you a very bad person.

I rarely hear the word 'responsibility' paired with the word 'right' anymore unless that responsibility is placed upon those who are questioning the assertion.  At that moment, it becomes their responsibility to acquiesce, to say, "okay" and probably, "I'm sorry".  The apology, of course, is because they had the audacity to even ask the question, "Is your want a right?".

When I look to the teaching of Holy Mother Church I see an interesting view of what society needs to aim for in terms of social justice.  Guided by the Holy Spirit, The Church reminds us all that we are one body and, therefore, should strive for what philosophers refer to as 'The Common Good".

The Common Good requires three essential elements.  Any first year High School philosophy class will teach this (or at least used to) because it is so very foundational to understanding what role society plays in the protection and nurturing of the individual.  While all three elements are essential, it is worthy to note that the very first one discussed is respect.

Without respect, in particular the respect for the individual, no one gets to exercise their rights in the manner in which God intends.  Why?

I maintain that without respect for the individual one becomes self-absorbed to the point where the only thing that matters is what they want and what they think they need.  Unless one develops the ability to look both inward and outward one never develops an ability to see themselves as a small part of a greater whole.  They start to think they don't matter because they cannot see how they are connected to those around them.  When someone starts to think they don't matter, they become afraid and when they become afraid they develop predatory instincts.  If I don't matter to you, then I have to defend myself against you.  If I am in a constant state of fear because I think I don't matter to anyone, I have to strike first in order to remain safe.

Turning my attention outward allows me to recognize that I matter because you matter.  I start to see the place I occupy as something given to me by my Creator and something to nurture and share rather than defend or enlarge.  If, by circumstances, I gain some authority in the world I do not see it as something to wield like a club; rather, I see it as a tool to lift others up and to make God's World a better place for the Common Good.

Today I am fully aware that my rights are accompanied by my responsibilities.  I must have the ability to see both - without that ability, I am just another angry woman waving my arms and demanding that you give me what I want right now.

After's my right.