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Thursday, October 16, 2014

What I Learned Last Night - True Love

Father John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary defines love in this fashion:

LOVE. To will good to someone. Also to please someone, either by sharing with that person what one possesses or by doing what someone wants. Basically there are two kinds of love. The love of concupiscence, or self-interested love, means that another is loved for one's own sake as something useful or pleasant to the one who loves. The love of friendship means selfless love of another for that person's own sake, for his or her good, to please him or her; it is the love of benevolence.


Like most humans, I have been guilty of the love of concupiscence, or self-interested love.  I have loved others as something useful or pleasant to me.  Especially when I was very young, I saw the world through the veil of self centeredness.  I love you, but what have you done for me lately?

Have you made me feel happy?  Complete?  Have you satisfied my sexual drive?  Have you made me feel pretty and wanted and desirable?

If you haven't, how can I make you love me?  Can I manipulate, lie, cheat, arouse jealousy or insecurity in you so that I can then say, "See?  They do love me" even if I was saying that in the dark recesses of my own heart, never daring to give those thoughts a voice?  Even if, after causing you pain in my quest to get you to prove you love me, I was disdainful of your actions?

Slowly, surely my ability to love has changed and the type of love I feel towards you has changed.

As my relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church has deepened, as my dependence upon Him and His Teachings has become stronger, my focus has (of course) shifted.  I rely less and less upon how others see me or want me to be to feel loved.  It has been a tough journey, filled with a lot of heartache, but it has been a journey well worth the steps.

I have been called self-centered and full of self-pity for asking for prayers.  I reject that - it is not true, but it still hurt to read it (which was, of course, the goal of the writer).

I have been called a lunatic because I don't stand for blatant bigotry, especially from those who claim to 'love everyone'.

I have had people demand I behave in a certain way in order to prove my friendship and love.

I have had Faithful Catholics tell me I dress wrong, that I not devout enough and that I need to do more.

I've lost friends and family because I am pro-life, hold to all the Teachings of The Catholic Church (bar none) and refuse to be defined by a political party (equally despised by the far left and the far right).

Through it all I have stayed sober, made mistakes, gotten angry and defiant, committed sins and had to go for absolution and make appropriate amends or apologies.  I have grown up - kicking and screaming, of course, because that's what people like me do - we don't like the process but we love the results.  Trust me, if I could have found an easier way to grow up I would have done it.  The way I seemed to have chosen has been one freaking rough road.

A well worn, well traveled road - and a road worth taking.

Probably my biggest remaining fear is one faced by most of us - I am afraid I will be all alone some day, without family or friends to share holidays or special occasions with or without any little ones in my life to squeal "Auntie!" when they see me and then demand I play legos with them.

Well, that may be the case but I will never, ever be able to fear being unloved again.

Last night, a group of women, lead by an extraordinary lady of grace and dignity, presented me with a check for almost $1800.00.

It is a gift.  A gift from their hearts to mine.  They raised the money themselves, trying to help me offset the cost of the veterinarian bills incurred during the attempt to save Duffy.

They held garage sales and yard sales and donated items and cleared out closets.  They did it out of the goodness of their hearts and without any hesitation.

Giving me the money was wonderful but they gave me so much more than that; these ladies gave me a gift of acceptance and love.  The squirrely little ex rock and roll wild child turned Catholic Catechist who fears being left at the side of the road, watching the caravan go by, was unequivocally shown that she matters.

I matter.

I matter to God and to His Church.  I matter to family and friends.

I matter.

It matters how I walk, talk and act - what I do matters.

It can't be all about me - it has to include you too.
 
The check was lovely and it will take care of a big chunk of the bills I incurred but even if the check had been for 5.00 what it conveyed was so much more.

I'm not alone.  I never will be alone.

I matter.


Thank you, God...thank you for showing me that if I just keep to Your Path, more really will be revealed - and the revelation will be FABULOUS.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

What I have Learned So Far Today

Servant of God Father John Hardon's online Modern Catholic Dictionary defines sin as:

 "A word, deed or desire in opposition to the eternal law" (St. Augustine). Sin is a deliberate transgression of a law of God, which identifies the four essentials of every sin. A law is involved, implying that there are physical laws that operate with necessity, and moral laws that can be disregarded by human beings. God is offended, so that the divine dimension is never absent from any sin. Sin is a transgression, since Catholicism holds that grace is resistible and the divine will can be disobeyed. And the transgression is deliberate, which means that a sin is committed whenever a person knows that something is contrary to the law of God and then freely does the action anyway. (Etym. Old English synnsyn, sin; Old High German suntasuntea, perhaps to Latin sons, guilty.)

Up until yesterday I have always struggled with the concept of 'offending God'.  I got that God is a loving Father and I even get that He gave His Authority to His Church so that what The Church teaches on earth is bound in heaven.  I get it.  What I struggled with, up until yesterday, was the actual real concept of offending God.

How could someone like me offend He who IS, the Creator, the Alpha and the Omega?  It almost seems as though I would be bragging to think that any action puny old me could take would have that kind of impact on the Great I Am.

Yesterday, it hit me.  And it hit me while sitting in a high school stadium, watching 13 year olds play football.  It hit me while holding my iPhone so I could keep up with the Giants beating St Louis in game 1 of the series.

In other words, I got an inkling - only an inkling - and it came an one of those weird times when I was not focusing on trying to understand God or my religion.

It seems to me that I have been going about this all wrong - I have been compartmentalizing the idea of sin and offending God rather than linking it to Love.

I love a group of people so much that I would take a bullet for them.  No sacrifice is too great.  I have gone places, bought things, sat through stuff and held people in prayer for no other reason than I love them.  I have loved them since they were conceived or since they entered into relationships with my blood relatives.  I loved them no matter what they did or how they did it - no matter how or what or where - I have loved them.

Being separated from them because of hard feelings and misunderstandings takes it toll. It makes me feel almost physically sick and trying to be loving and accepting is tougher than I imagined.

My job is to be a Catholic Out Loud - to ignore the slights and just show up and smile, say hello and not worry.

And I can do that - shoot, I can do anything with the help of Jesus and His Church - but it hurts.

And that is when it hit me - this is what God experiences when someone He loves sins. 

Jesus, the God Man, feels this when I swear, when I lose my temper, when I throw a self centered tantrum, when I demand my rights and to be respected rather than humbly accept what is handed to me and simply ask for grace so I can endure it.  This is what He feels when I decide I know better than His Church.  That ugly feeling in my stomach, the tears in the back of the throat and the urge to grab someone and say, "WHY? WHY WON'T YOU LOVE ME ANYMORE?".  The physical pain that causes headaches and clenched muscles.  

The feeling of loneliness.

This is what God feels when I sin.  He feels this way because He LOVES me, Loves everything about me - my hair, my wrinkly butt and my love for football.  He Loves ME - and accepts me and thinks I am the greatest thing since pockets.  He has loved me so much He has given me a way of life that, should I choose to live it, will do nothing but bring me joy and eventual total communion with Him.  

And what do I do?  I put me first.  I get mad, I get selfish, I get impatient...and I treat others like crap because, after all, they deserve it. 

In other words, ladies and germs, I sin.

The realization that God hurts when I walk away from Him has strengthened my resolve to never leave Him again.  I may end up all alone here in this house with just my cats and my future dog (I think I may have found a new breeder outside of California but it will mean traveling and bringing a baby home on the plane - new experiences!).  It may mean having to depend upon a society through the parish for help in my later years.  I may end up leaving the area some day and becoming a house mother at Franciscan University in Steubenville.  I may end up - oh who knows?  The possibilities are endless!

The bottom line is this:  I don't want to cause My Lord any more pain, but when I do?  I am going to run for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  No one should feel that loneliness.  No one should feel that pain.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Must have been a Wild Angel

Servant of God Father John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary offers this definition for Guardian Angels:



GUARDIAN ANGEL. A celestial spirit assigned by God to watch over each individual during life. This general doctrine of an angel’s care for each person is part of the Church’s constant tradition, based on Sacred Scripture and the teaching of the Fathers of the Church. The role of the guardian spirit is both to guide and to guard; to guide as a messenger of God’s will to our minds, and to guard as an instrument of God’s goodness in protecting us from evil. This protection from evil is mainly from the evil of sin and the malice of the devil. But it is also protection from physical evil insofar as this is useful or necessary to guard the soul from spiritual harm. A feast honoring the guardian angels has been celebrated in October, throughout the universal Church, since the seventeenth century. It now occurs on October 2.


I have never had to be convinced of the Truth of this teaching.

There is little doubt in my mind that I survived the 1970's and the 1980's simply because I have one incredibly powerful Guardian Angel. 

The little suburban Catholic school girl let loose on the streets of Berkeley in 1974 (and later LA, Hollywood, NYC and various port o'calls throughout Europe) should not be alive today, let alone a Franciscan University certified Catechist for RCIA.  The fact that I lived long enough to find the rooms of the appropriate 12 step program and return to the Catholic Faith is nothing short of a miracle.  I have no doubt that miracle is the result of very hard work by my Guardian Angel.

Many people make the mistake of doubting the existence of Guardian Angels because of the evil that exists in the world. I can understand that temptation.  After all, where are the Angels when that six year old girl is being raped by her brother or the three year old boy is being burned by his mother's latest boyfriend?  Where are the Guardian Angels during the beheadings and crucifixions taking place right now in Iraq at the hands of Muslim fanatics?

However, I think we are missing the point when we look at the horrors of the world and claim that the perpetration of evil proves there is no God or no Angelic Protection.  I think, it is the actual existence of evil that proves the existence of God and His Army.

I think evil is the absence of what ought to be there, the absence of good.  I believe all things have been created as good but it is our own embracing of that which is evil that allows for horrors to happen.

Think about it - if every single Muslim in Iraq (Sunni or Shiite) was to suddenly sit upright and think, "This whole convert by the sword business is so 5th century.  We lost the Battle of Vienna because it doesn't work.  We need to stop it right now." there would be peace in a very large section of the world.  In other words, if every single Muslim in Iraq (Sunni or Shiite) was to make a deliberate and intentional decision to do only that which is good, evil would be at a distinct disadvantage.

Think about it - if every single man or woman who finds themselves sexually attracted to a child under the age of 18 was to suddenly look at themselves in the mirror and say, "The fact that I am attracted to a child does not give me the right to exploit that child sexually.  I am going to exert my willpower and start intentionally and deliberately deciding to do only that which shows the utmost respect for human beings" we would never have to worry about our kids going for a bike ride to the park in broad daylight again.

Of course, this is an incredibly oversimplification of a lot of issues.  I am ignoring mental health problems, substance abuse problems and cultural beliefs with a rather cavalier sweep of my hand; however, my point is this: evil is often a choice made by human beings because of our own selfish desires. 

God allows evil because He respects the free will of His Creatures - You and Me.

Angels have been charged with serving mankind and God.  To serve both, they must be willing to allow us to make those decisions.  They can whisper to us what we ought to do, they can show us through signs and coincidences the right paths to take, they can pray for us and with us but ultimately it is our own will that determines whether we will choose evil or good.

I also hold to St Augustine's teaching:  from all evil can come great good.

We know this because from the greatest evil ever perpetrated on the earth - diecide - the gates of heaven were opened for us, and salvation was made possible.

I am grateful to my Guardian Angel, but I also know that my underlying desire to want to be loved by God is what kept me open to the protection my Angel offered me.  It kept me alive during the rape, during the abortions, during the substance abuse, in spite of my alcoholism, during the pain of losing my husband.  It kept me alive during the loneliness and the rejection of former loved ones.  It keeps me alive today when the slings and arrows of every day life sometimes just feel way too much for me to handle and I have been given one more opportunity to chuck it all and move to Denver - or worse.

I will never understand when children are hurt by adults or other children.  I will never understand when people are tortured for loving and believing in Jesus Christ and His Church.  I will never understand when the most vulnerable among us - either human or animal - are abused by those charged with their care. I will always be one of those people who weeps when I read about another baby found dead in a dumpster, another dog mauled and hurt by someone who was just plain bored or another man beheaded because he stood for Truth. 

What I know today is I do not weep alone - my Guardian Angel weeps with me and stands with me, no matter what.

And for that, I am extremely grateful.

Happy Feast of the Holy Angels, everybody!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Family and The Circus

Servant of God Father John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary defines family thusly:

 A group of persons who are related by marriage or blood and who typically include a father, mother, and children. A family is a natural society whose right to existence and support is provided by the divine law. According to the Second Vatican Council, “the family is the foundation of society” (The Church in the Modern World, II, 52). In addition to the natural family, the Church recognizes also the supernatural family of the diocese and of a religious community, whose members are to co-operate for the upbuilding of the Body of Christ (Decree on the Bishops’ Pastoral Office, 34; and Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 43). (Etym. Latin familia, a family, the members of a household; from famulus, a servant, attendant.)

I like this definition.  I like it because it incorporate practical, common sense with Church Teaching (which is, of course, always the same).  I like it because it gives us an ideal that is not unreachable.  I like it even though my father did not hold up his part of the bargain when I was growing up and I like it because it recognizes the type of family I have discovered within Holy Mother Church.

A recent Facebook Meme states:  when confronted with other peoples' drama, simply repeat the following mantra:  
turning
NOT MY CIRCUS
NOT MY MONKEYS

Reading that, thinking about family and reviewing my life as it unfolded in the past week, I got this interesting visual in my mind.  It stems from the seed of the idea planted by the FB Meme.  Afterall, what the Meme implies is that I do have a circus and monkeys of my own to manage.  With that thought came the idea,  that my life truly is a three ring circus and the three rings are:

Family

Recovery

Church

The monkeys, of course, are all of us...all of us players. We are the monkeys, the clowns, the acrobats, the elephant trainers and the lion tamers.  We whirl around in our fancy costumes, leaping onto the backs of the horses.  We stick our heads in the lions' mouths and we make the tigers jump through hoops of fire.  We cram ourselves into little cars, zoom around in little circles and then we leap out and spray each other with confetti and seltzer bottles.  Meanwhile, a bunch of us swing above the crowd on a trapeze, turning somersaults and grabbing each other before we fall into the net below - a net that may or may not break our fall.  

The past week I watched a segment of my family begin to repair itself.  After years of prayers, penance and sacrifice the healing suddenly began with a BANG.  I did not stop doing what I do, I did not change my devotion to my Faith, and the healing began in earnest.  The tiny baby steps of the past suddenly became actual strides and the gratitude I feel is absolutely indescribeable.

This past week I let go of a relationship that I hoped would work.  It did not - or, if one wants to consider another angle, it worked out exactly as God intended.  I learned so much about myself, what I can and cannot allow in my life and how not allowing it does not really mean what the world states as 'setting boundaries'; rather, it is about tearing down walls.  I let the relationship unfold without changing who and what I am and eventually the other person decided I am not their cup of tea.  They have retreated and I keep my self respect, stayed true to my Faith and my values.

This past week, family members came together and gave my Mom a birthday present (her birthday is October 9) that was second to none.  We had so much fun, and the best part was she got to meet her favorite comedian.


My three ring circus may be a little chaotic at times but I am glad it is mine.  I am grateful that I retired as ringmaster and turned the top hat and coat over the Jesus and His Church.  I am grateful that I am sober today, and I get to be a woman of grace and dignity.  I am grateful I am not subject to the whim and the whips of alcohol or other drugs.

Most of all?

I am grateful that I have my own circus - and that the monkeys are pretty cool.

Monday, September 22, 2014

I Know You are but What am I?

There is a topic I would love to write on this morning but it would simply open the door to more problems.

For that reason, I will refrain from sharing my boundless wisdom and hearty opinion.  Suffice to say, I am so grateful to those people who have walked this path before me because without their feedback and guidance I would really be up a creek without even the slightest ability to paddle.  I would be drifting, drifting, drifting from one angry little current to another.  Instead, because of the amazing men and women in my life, I can make my case and let it go.  No need to keep defending myself.

In other words, get off the cross, Leslie.  We need the wood.

Tonight I get to teach in Inquiry for RCIA.  The topic will be Original Sin and quite frankly, the topic comes right on time.  It is perfect for me to be reminded of the Fallen Nature of Man, the strength of concupiscence in our lives and to be able to honestly and open mindedly accept that scrupulosity is also a sin that I must be willing to avoid at all costs.

Servant of God Father John Hardon compiled a great Modern Catholic Dictionary.  This dictionary defines Original Sin as:

ORIGINAL SIN. Either the sin committed by Adam as the head of the human race, or the sin he passed onto his posterity with which every human being, with the certain exception of Christ and his Mother, is conceived and born. The sin of Adam is called originating original sin (originale originans); that of his descendents is originated original sin (originale originatum). Adam’s sin was personal and grave, and it affected human nature. It was personal because he freely committed it; it was grave because God imposed a serious obligation; and it affected the whole human race by depriving his progeny of the supernatural life and preternatural gifts they would have possessed on entering the world had Adam not sinned. Original sin in his descendants is personal only in the sense that the children of Adam are each personally affected, but not personal as though they had voluntarily chosen to commit the sin; it is grave in the sense that it debars a person from the beatific vision, but not grave in condemning one to hell; and it is natural only in that all human nature, except for divine intervention, has it and can have it removed only by supernatural means.


What do you suppose the act was that completely deprived us of our preternatural gifts?

What are preternatural gifts anyway?

Well, we know that whatever they are they are favors granted by God.  The gifts are not stuff we would just have on our own; if they were, then they wouldn't be gifts.

We know that these gifts perfect nature, but don't carry it beyond the limits of our creation.  In other words, if man cannot fly because it is not a part of his created nature then a preternatural gift would not be the ability to fly.

However, we do have the ability to know, to learn.  With that in mind, the preternatural gift would be Infused Knowledge.

That makes these preternatural gifts pretty fabulous.  In fact, it makes sense that God would give these gifts to us as it would go along perfectly with the idea of being made in His Image and His Likeness.  Being born with Infused Knowledge, the absence of concupiscence, and - say - bodily immortality would mean being pretty darn close to God.

That is what Adam threw away when he made the choice...the choice to believe the lie.

If you look at the Book of Genesis, what becomes clear is the sin or the action was not just eating a piece of fruit.  Instead, one can gather from the words of the ancient, inspired writers the following:

Human Freedom is vast (You may eat from all the trees).

Human Freedom has limits (Don't eat from that one).

A Relationship with God requires trust on my part and a relationship that includes sin means I have rejected Truth.  It means I made all the decisions.  I can be god like and decide what is good for me, what works for me, how I use my body, my sexuality, my mouth, my brain - it is all up to me, me, me.

And then - if I really want to take it to the limits - I can then blame God and those around me when my life goes south.

So now, going back to my original question:  what was the sin that Adam committed?

Was it simply disobeying God's instructions?

Was it just eating a piece of fruit?

I may never know, unless I make it to heaven, exactly what that sin was Adam committed o those many years ago, but I can wager this guess:

Whatever it was, he threw away the opportunity to continue to walk with God in close communion.  He threw the opportunity away because someone (satan) lied to him, and he chose to ignore all the gifts he had been given AND chose to not give a wiff about his wife or future children.  Adam behaved selfishly and self-centeredly, taking the fruit from his wife because he was afraid that if he said no she wouldn't like him anymore, that she would reject him and he would be lonely - and not get to have sex because after all, if she rejected him then that part of their relationship would be over.

In other words, Adam acted out of fear.

And isn't fear at the root of all my problems today?  Isn't my fear of rejection, of not being good enough, of not measuring up to some sort of magic line of acceptance the reason I give in and say, "Sure, ok, whatever you want...just please don't leave me alone?".  And isn't that fear of being alone the foundation of any and all sins I commit - sins against Faith, against Hope and (most of all) against Charity?

Deciding to not fear being alone has been a difficult decision for me to make but it has been incredibly liberating.  I wish I could tell you that I never, ever take back that decision.  That is not true.  I slip and I fall all the time - but when I do, I know what to do:

I apologize when appropriate.

I head to the confessional.

I no longer engage in the battle.

Thank you, Lord, for the life you have given me today.  It is hard, it is lonely and it requires great strength.  Thank you for giving me the Sacraments because it is those that allow me to walk with grace and dignity and to leave the battlefield with honor.

Thank you.