Friday, May 17, 2019

The Question of Abortion

It is normal for people to assume I am anti-abortion because I am a Catholic.  That is a dangerous assumption nowadays as many people proclaiming the Creed at Sunday Mass are actually pro-abortion.  However, I can understand why the assumption is made and to be honest I applaud them for making it because it means I have been clear and concise that I am Catholic.  A real Catholic.  A Catholic Out Loud.

The road to my present life has not been an easy one, however, and that is why it is important for me to tell my story over and over again.  I endure much for being honest with you.  The latest term is, I believe, 'slut-shaming'.  It usually comes from the direction of the Left but is not exclusive to that political stripe. It works like this:  a person who has turned their life around admits publicly to have sinned against the lifestyle they now have chosen to live.  Therefore, they cannot be believed or honored for their experience; rather, it must be pointed out how horrible they are to have ever lived that way and it, furthermore, it must be suggested that this lack of moral behavior renders their thoughts on morality moot.

If I was a member of the Chesterton Society I might shout, "BALDERDASH".

Today, because of the recent actions in different states on legal abortion - some states enshrining it to the point of making it legal to kill a child moments before its birth and others making it virtually impossible to get a legal abortion - people are up in arms over the issue.  The Left is screaming in pain, because it is obvious to them that more of the country is pro-life than they would like to see.   The Right is shrieking because of threatened boycotts and sex strikes.  All in all it is one big Yell Fest and lost in all the noise is the real question no one wants to address:

Why would a woman opt to have an abortion?

The reason we do not want to address this question is because the short answer is 'none of your business'.  It is a private decision, people say, between a woman and her doctor or health care provider but the reality is that unless we address this question the underlying wounds will never be dressed and allowed to heal.

We choose abortion because we do not think we have any other choice.

Whether it is because the baby is diagnosed as ill and we think they are going to suffer in life, or we live in poverty, or we are drug addicts or alcoholics, or we are sex trafficked victims, victims of violent crimes like rape or incest, we choose abortion because we do not think any other option is really okay.

We think we won't be able to care for a sick child and so we do not think to ask about palliative care for those children facing life with a genetic illness.

We think we won't be able to look at a child who was created through a sexual crime and love them and so we do not think that someone may want to raise that child, we don't ask for the therapy and help we need to heal from the crime.  We are told, sometimes by people who love us,  that killing the child will put us at ease.

We are told that an abortion will make it easier on us in the long run, and then we spend the rest of our live defending that choice any time someone brings up abortion.  This only ends up proving that we have not forgotten, that it did not make life easier but rather it left a hole in our hearts we cannot fill.

We are marched into clinics at the point of a gun or a knife or a fist and no one in that clinic asks about our bruises or why we, at age 14 or 16, have a 26 year old 'boyfriend' waiting in the parking lot for 'it' to be over.

In the case of Abby Johnson, we honestly believe we are doing our Christian Duty by helping women through a difficult time - until we see what an abortion actually is and how the child is trying to escape the vacuum.

No one really asks us - instead they say things like, "Once I can see, but four?  What the hell is wrong with you and how dare you be pro life now?".

Woman currently shrieking about this issue are doing so because they see being able to kill their child as freedom - the freedom afforded to men that is not, by virtue of biology, afforded to women.  Men can walk away from a pregnancy.  Women cannot.  If we can, then we can be like them - free.

Yet their walking away from pregnancy is NOT freedom - it is sin, it is ugly, it is wrong and it is immoral.  Our being able to do the same (we can't - we still have to undergo a medical procedure and then heal from it) is NOT FREEDOM.  It is sin, it is ugly, it is wrong and it is immoral.

I do not believe women need to be shamed for being post abortive. I am not ashamed of being post abortive.  I do think, however, that we have got to have the willingness to ask women why they want an abortion, to see how we can help them, to put an end to the cycle of abuse that hides behind a banner of Reproductive Rights.

This means, therefore, that we have to be more than anti-abortion if we want to call ourselves Pro Life.  Pro Life should mean wanting to make living meaningful, attractive, affordable, healthy and possible for all people regardless of where they live, what they look like, what their 'issues' are and how they were created.  A child of rape cannot be less valuable than the child of a stable home.  Both must be allowed to be born and to thrive in the world.  We have to be a community, to come together to protect our most vulnerable - from Womb to Tomb, Sperm to Worm as the Jets in West Side Story would say.

This means we can start with restrictions - reasonable ones - on abortion but we cannot stop there.  We have got to stop making our educational system a battle ground and get back to solid basics so our children can read, write and do math.  We have to make housing affordable so that, while not everyone will get a house or a chicken in their pot, they can live in a clean place without worrying about bullets flying through the window on a summer night.  We have to allow people to adopt children and support that adoption process with tax incentives.  Medical coverage, basic medical coverage, must be made a reality so that children can be healthy and strong, and develop in such a way as to want to make the next generation healthy and strong.  Religious Freedom and Tolerance must be promoted - and that means that we give children information about their Faith Tradition in the proper way, either through parochial schools or homeschooling options, and not label people bigots or haters if their Tradition rejects the latest politically correct cause.

Easy, right?

I would challenge people to look at their own backyards right now.  Show up at City Council meetings or those meet and greets put on by the Washington Politician and start asking questions.  When you have a community event, go...make yourself available to your city or your county and reach out to help when you can.  Let women and men struggling in this world see that they are not alone.  Volunteer.

Currently, I work in a field that allows me to help shape the minds and hearts of the smallest members of the Catholic Church.  I see children from broken homes, with serious physical problems, with anxieties, with language barriers and what I know I can do is suit up and show up every day outside that building and greet them with smile and hug and encouragement.  I can see them at Mass and acknowledge them.  I can accept their gifts at the end of the year with a big smile and a thank you.  I can make sure they behave, that they learn how to pray, that they are prepared for their Sacraments.

And I can ask the children I aborted to pray with me for them...because I know my children have forgiven me...and for that, I am forever grateful.

As for the rest of us, let's not stop with 'having that abortion is her business'.  Make it your business.  Ask her if you can help.  Give her information. Stand her wrath, her fear, her tears and her rejection.  Believe it or not, it matters to her...and she will remember it, no matter what her decision...and she will remember that someone asked her and someone told her, "If you need help, I am here for you....and for your child".

Friday, May 3, 2019

Suffering and Triumph - Endurance is the Key

"Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring."
— St. Catherine of Siena

Today is May 3, 2019.  Twenty-seven years ago this day found me in deep despair, unsure of what was to become of me.

I had spent the previous two years attending meetings of a 12 Step Fellowship and nothing they said seemed to be working.  I thought I was following directions.  I was putting 'the plug in the jug'.  I was trying not to drink alcohol or do any illegal drugs between meetings.  I was trying and trying and trying and yet, I could never seem to put even 30 days of continuous sobriety together.

Once again, I was a failure.

You would think I would have been used to that by then.  I had lost my husband and my child in 1987.  I had given up my dreams of acting to drink and party.  I had flunked out of Law School and lost jobs.  I was not longer even remotely pretty.  All I had become was one big failure.

There is a line of thought for people who have the disease of alcoholism that hitting bottom is necessary in order to recover.  Others dispute this, saying that we just have to stop drinking and everything will be fine.

I have retired from this particular debate because I am not a scientist, a therapist or any kind of expert in the field of substance abuse.  I have opinions - personally, I think a lot of people show up in the rooms of 12 Step programs that don't belong there - but my opinions don't really matter.  Results do and all I can share with the world is the results that I have experienced.   I cannot speak to your issues, your belief system or you declarations that 'alcoholism is not a disease'.  Think whatever you want because, frankly, I don't care.

Here is what I know:

Discovering that a guy named Silkworth figured out, through observation, that some people have an abnormal reaction to alcohol is a watershed moment.  To accept that  I am one of those people is amazingly liberating.  I am not ashamed of having an abnormal reaction to alcohol any more than I am ashamed of having an abnormal reaction to penicillin.  It is not a moral issue.  It does not reflect upon my character.  It simply is and I am fine with having that information.

Having to accept that I have a mental illness that can cause me to perceive the world through a lens colored by extreme selfishness and anxiety was also liberation.   Making the connection that alcohol relieves both those symptoms of my mental illness provided me with the 'ah ha' moment as to why, despite all the evidence to the contrary, I kept trying to be a 'social drinker'.

I compare it to burning my hand on a black glass top stove at the age of 12 - it hurt so much and caused such damage that I have never approached a black glass top stove without being wary (is it on? is it off).  My response to getting hurt is a sane and understandable response.  I don't want it to happen again.

But when it came to drinking alcohol I kept trying to find the right combination.  Maybe mixed drinks.  Maybe scotch on the rocks like Bette Davis drinks.  Maybe if I add cocaine and switch to vodka.  Maybe if I eat first.  Over and over again I attempted to find the magic that would allow me to relieve those symptoms and still be able to drink, never being able to connect that the very substance that relieved those symptoms also produced a reaction in me that made stopping after one or two cocktails nigh on impossible.

May 3, 1992 was the last day I sat in a closet drinking and crying and wanting to die.  A miracle happened on May 4, 1992 but on May 3rd I had no idea that miracle would take place.

St. Catherine of Siena says that nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring and I believe she is correct.  Many people make the mistake of thinking staying sober does not require will power but it does - it requires discipline and the willingness to do the right thing when people around you tell you it is not necessary, that one won't hurt, that you are a fanatic and no fun any more, that your conception of God is awful and hurtful and full of hate.  It means showing up when you do not want to leave the house.  It means making faux pas in public and not running away when your head is screaming at you that you will never EVER be forgiven for the way you just tried to make a joke and it fell flat (or that making a dumb joke is something to be forgiven for in the first place).

Twenty-seven years ago I was in the depth of despair.  I wanted to die.  My dormant Catholic Faith kept me from ending my life.  Those graces I had received, the prayers of a scared and faithful mother and (maybe) the plan of The Father for my life kept me alive for another 24 hours.

Long enough for the miracle of recovery to begin.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Tales of Chronic Pain

I have been sober since May 4, 1992 but I have been dealing with bouts of chronic pain for many years.

Assuming it is genetic, I have become (almost) used to aching, swollen and feverish joints and regular bouts of migraine headaches.  Over the years I have pushed through pain as though it were an afterthought, knowing that I have to go to school/work/meetings/conferences/whatever and also understanding that no one likes a complainer.

Today I am a bit more honest about my struggles.  I say 'a bit' because I still feel uncomfortable telling people about how I feel.  I will post occasionally on FB about dealing with Chronic Pain but I rarely let it stand in my way in terms of participating in life.  I have a lot of sick leave on the books.  I rarely miss a meeting and when someone inevitably leaves one of my classrooms in disarray I push and pull the tables and chairs back into place knowing that I will pay for it later....but also recognizing that the time it takes to track down someone else to do it will be about twice as long as it will take to just do it myself.

Of course that is not good.  Right now I am in line for surgery in June to replace a hip and the pain I feel all through the leg and knee area is awful.  I have offered up the pain.  I have tried to ignore the pain.  I have railed against the pain and I have thrown enough OTC pain meds at it to strangle a horse but the bottom line is I am not happy with the person I am when I am hurting this much.

To my relief (because misery loves company) I am not alone.  Most people my age deal with some sort of chronic pain condition and due to the joys of FB we now share that with each other.  In fact, it is so wide spread that Amazon actually sells something called a 'Hip Kit'.  It is not something the fine young things use; rather, it is a set of items perfect for those people about to undergo a hip replacement - toilet riser, long-range grabber of items off a shelf and something to help you pull your socks up.

Good going, Amazon.

It is so difficult to not be able to run and jump and dance when you want to and there is no consolation in not having run, jumped or danced in a long time anyway.  It is the idea of not being able to, of having to ask someone to help you add salt pellet to the water softener machine because suddenly lifting 50lbs is out of the question when you have a hip about to fracture, that just makes me sad.  Loss of independence, maybe?  Having to accept the fact that I am going to be the little old lady that cannot put up her own Christmas lights?  Maybe....or it could just be that old nemesis of mine: PRIDE.

I don't really mind getting older because it means I have outlived the lifestyle that should have killed me.  What I am sad about - and feel some shame over - is having to be dependent upon others for help with simple stuff.  It just kills me.  I don't want to have to hire someone to put in a new lightbulb in a difficult place to reach...I wanna climb the ladder myself, doggone it!

As a member of the Body of Christ, I need to remember that my asking for help provides another person with a chance to exercise virtue.  As a Dominican, I know that begging means others have a chance to be generous.

As a prideful woman, asking for help means I am weak and vulnerable and I hate that!

Today my prayer is to let go of the pride, to be able to accept my limitations and not be ashamed of having to ask for help.  If I can do that, I can demonstrate how powerful God is when He removes that character defect of mine and gives me the opportunity to be real.  I tear down another wall....and let in a little sunshine.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

It's Holy Week!

This is the busiest, the most exasperating and the most trying time of the year for someone who, like me, works for Holy Mother Church.  We have lists to make, check and double check.  We have parents calling, sponsors of the Elect calling, questions being asked from all directions.  It can be tiring.  It can be frustrating.  It can make the idea of total retirement really tempting.

It is also the holiest time of the year.  It is the week where we, as Catholics, mark the time when the historical events of 2000 years ago culminated in the beginning of the End Times.  Ever since this time, when a Roman Magistrate set in motion that which opened the gates of heaven to those who choose to set their sights on eternal salvation, us Christians have been celebrating.

When you stop and think about it, we are celebrating something really odd.

No wonder people see us as 'The Other'.

Think about it for a minute....our belief system took a practice the Romans used against scum of the earth, common criminals, and turned it into our most triumphant moment - that moment when God, acting as one who is Fully Human and Fully Divine - conquered death.

St. Paul reminded the Phillipians that Jesus ‘Though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave’.  

In his letter to the Church, St. Paul reminds us how extraordinary the Crucifixion was for us.  Not only did God humble Himself for His creatures, the Creator allowed the greatest evil ever known to take place - Deicide - so that we could be saved. 

This week Christians celebrate something that should not even be remembered: the execution of a Jewish man by a frustrated Roman career politician in a dusty outpost of the empire.  We will gather together for prayer, we will Baptize and Confirm new members of the Church and they will get to participate in the Eucharistic Meal for the first time.  We will read the Great Story of Our Family from Holy Scripture, commemorate the love of the Saints - especially those who were so affected by the events of that time that they willingly went to their DEATH rather than renounce their experience.  These people, many of them just simple folk like me (working hard to keep body and soul together, as my late father would say) died protecting that piece of bread from being desecrated.


Because some of them had been there in the Upper Room that night and others had been TAUGHT what happened in the Upper Room that night..and they believed that the piece of bread, the cup of wine is transformed into the Body, Blood, Soul and DIVINITY of Jesus Christ Himself.

This is Holy Week.  The Week that makes my life matter, my hard work to bring the Truth to children and adults matter, the week that puts my physical and mental and emotional suffering in the world into perspective and gives it meaning.  It is the week when being me, a Catholic Out Loud, is put to the test.

This is Holy Week.  May the Light of Christ and His Church illuminate the real world for you.

Monday, March 18, 2019

The True Scourge of Terrorism

In January of 2019 a horrific terrorist attack was carried out.

Twenty people were killed.  It was the latest in ongoing attacks on civilians in the area.

I knew about the attack - not from NBC, CBS or ABC.  CNN did not run wall-to-wall coverage.  No one of social media changed their profile picture or anguished over the deaths.  In fact, when I did post something very recently, a woman I know who would consider herself very enlightened and progressive pointed out to me that 'this happened in January'.  Now she was careful to state that, gee, it was awful that it had happened but come happened in January.

In 2018 an attack by terrorists killed 18 worshipers during a religious gathering in Nigeria.

Again, I was informed of the attack but not so by the press in the United States.

This past week a White Nationalist killed 49 people in a mosque during prayer service in New Zealand.  Children were pumped full of bullets.  Old people were murdered.  We are, right now, today, here in Modesto, California, gathering at a mosque for a show of unity against hate.  Our House of Representative member, Josh Harder, will attend. The Mayor of Modesto will attend.  People will gather in a show of strength and solidarity against the type of hatred demonstrated by this sick and evil act.

Why did this horrific attack get press when the others are ignored?

Oh come on, you know just as well as one cares when Catholics are killed.

This blog post is not about how people are hypocrites.  It is about something that people like me have always been keenly aware of - our status as 'other'.

Because people are very aware of 'pickawordandaddphobetotheend' they will drive for miles to put flowers on a sidewalk so everyone will know that we condemn whatever ugliness has happened to a specific group of people.  They will put little hats with cat ears on them and march because they want women to feel free.  They will stand on corners and hold signs demanding we honk to show you reject racism.  They will do whatever they can to support those who have been attacked.

Unless those who have been attacked are part of that unpopular religion.  If so, no worries...everyone is given a pass on hating Catholics.

Most of my far left and far right friends will never understand is that we, true and faithful Catholics, have always been aware that we are not trusted, we are not considered true Americans (or true whatever country we are in) and that everything about us is constantly questioned and suspect.  We are the first to volunteer to fight your wars.  We helped build your country.  We joined your scout troops and we donate to your red kettle stuff but we know that YOU know that we do not really belong here...and so whatever happens to us on the other side of the world doesn't warrant the press that a tragedy such as that which happened in New Zealand warranted.


If you find out our leaders have been horrific and sinned and caused pain? OH MAN WATCH OUT.

I have people in my life who still think the Inquisition killed MILLIONS of people in Europe.

I am held to ridicule because The Church says marriage is between one man and one woman, that a child deserves to live, that maybe we need to really restrict that death penalty thing and (worst of all!) there IS such a thing as Objective Truth.

I have had members of my 12 Step group - who spout the word 'tolerance' every chance they get - tell me that my wearing my Dominican cross makes me separate from them...and I damn well know that they would no sooner ask a Muslim woman to take off her hajib than they would drink a bottle of whiskey from the podium.

The Catholic Church suffers from a real problem with Her leadership - sinful men have destroyed our trust and made a mockery of our teachings but if anyone thinks THAT is why people hate us they do not know their American history.  They do not know we have always been considered strangers in a strange land.

If people are willing to hold tight to the complicated myth that the Catholic Church hurt indigenous people they better be willing to grant the  idea of freedom of religion to people like Kateri Tekakwitha and Black Elk.  If people are going to shame the Catholic Church for racism then they better be able to understand the spirituality of St. Martin de Porres or Father Tolton.

No one is asking anyone to love The Catholic Church.  If you have left, you have left.  If you hate us, you hate us.  If you feel, somehow, that we deserve everything that happens to us then so be it.

However, do not expect me to think you are wonderful for showing up for a day of unity and ignoring the horrors of terrorism against MY people.

And while I love this country and will sacrifice for it, do not expect me to think of myself as anything other than what I am - I am a stranger in your land, I am someone you do not really trust.

In the words of my brother, Black Elk (whose cause for canonization is currently being considered):

There can never be peace between nations until there is first known that true peace which is within the souls of men.

Please pray for all those who are the victims of hatred.