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Monday, December 3, 2018

DASHING THROUGH THE (SNOW) STUFF

The Catholic Church teaches:

843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as "a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life."

I share this because I am, once again, saddened by the attacks on Christmas.  The idea that it is the choosing December 25th as the day to celebrate the singular most important event in world history that negates the legitimacy of that event doesn't make sense to me.  The fact that The Church may have chosen as a the day to celebrate Jesus' birth a pagan feast day should not mean that Christmas is somehow illegitimate.

However, I understand that most people do not know the teachings of The Church.  Many of the members of the Body of Christ are unaware that seeing the practices (even the ugly ones) of a pagan religion as a 'preparation' for Truth is a manifestation of God's Infinite Mercy.  Besides, it is so much easier to simply dismiss, attack or ridicule.  Sad, but true.

Bunches and bunches of scholars have researched, written and exclaimed about the celebration of Christmas.  I am not going to join the chorus.  Instead, I am going to offer my understanding of the theology we are missing when we make the issue about the externals.

Christians do not believe in a theorem or a feeling.  Christians believe in a Person, an actual historical person named Jesus.  In Jesus we recognize two natures:  Divine and Human.  For us, He is fully Human, like us in all things except sin.  He is fully Divine and was there at the beginning and will be here always.  He is God, equal to The Father, begotten and not made.

Why is this important?

Jesus was God in the womb of the Virgin Mary from the moment of His conception.  He was not born Human and then somehow became God.  He is both at once.  Through Him all things are possible - all things - which includes a virgin girl in Palestine being saved from the stain of Original Sin at HER conception by HIS sacrifice outside of time and space.  Through Him all things are possible - all things - which includes Him being fully Human and Fully Divine from the moment of His conception so that His cousin, also in the womb, would recognize Him as the Lamb of God and leap for joy, causing that child's mother, Elizabeth, to recognize the monumental moment (Who am I that the Mother of My Lord should come to me?).

Jesus opens the gates of Heaven for us so that we might claim our rightful place there, in full communion with God, for all eternity.  We are, therefore, called to that communion from the moment of OUR conception which is why, even though we are wounded by the sin of Adam, we have a destiny and a purpose that far surpasses any earthly reward.  It doesn't matter that I didn't get to be a famous actress because while that might have been a possible vocation it is not my purpose.  My purpose is to be of maximum service to God and to His children, even the ones who have rejected His existence.

The Church teaches that this kind of thought is deep down in every one of us regardless of our station, our intelligence or our life experience.  Every single person is always searching for God.  When we find Him, that God-size hole in our psyche is filled and we find our
 purpose.  Once we find our purpose, we can discover how we can best serve Him.

The Church teaches that all religions have at their core this idea that something greater than themselves exists.  It is why the missionaries can see in the practices of the native peoples a semblance of the truth, whether it be ancestor worship (communion of saints) or the Sacrifice of Jesus on the cross (human sacrifice).  And while some practices might have horrified them, they did not lose sight of the fact that the people to whom they were ministering were trying in their own, limited way to reach a communion with God.

So we know, historically, that Natalis Invicti is a solar feast that has a strong claim on why Christians celebrate the birth of The Son on December 25th.  As well explained in the blog TraditionalCatholicPriest.com:

It would be impossible here even to outline the history of solar symbolism and language as applied to God, the Messiah, and Christ in Jewish or Chrisian canonical, patristic, or devotional works. Hymns and Christmas offices abound in instances; the texts are well arranged by Cumont (op. cit., addit. Note C, p. 355).

The debate will always rage, I suppose, because no one ever wants to admit there may be a 'both/and' way of looking at history.  Right now, European Christianity is on the outs with people so if it smacks of 'appropriation' that is what it is going to named.    I understand that many atrocities were committed (and are still committed, quite frankly) under the cover of authority of Holy Mother Church by sinful men and women.

What I ask my readers to consider is this: is it just as insulting to assume that a member of an indigenous culture cannot convert to Truth?

To consider this, let's look at the last written words of Nicholas Black Elk, Ogala Holy Man and Catholic Catechist whose cause for canonization is being put forward at this time:

BLACK ELK’S LAST TESTAMENT

Holy Rosary Mission
Pine Ridge, S. Dakota
January 26, 1934

I shake hands with my white friends. Listen! I will speak words of truth. I told about the people’s ways of long ago and some of this a white man put in a book but he did not tell about current ways. Therefore I will speak again, a final speech.

Now I am an old man. I called my priest to pray for me and so he gave me Extreme Unction and Holy Eucharist. Therefore I will tell you the truth. Listen my friends!

For the last thirty years I have lived very differently from what the white man told about me. I am a believer. The Catholic priest Short Father baptized me thirty years ago. From then on they have called me Nick Black Elk. Very many of the Indians know me. Now I have converted and live in the true faith of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, I say in my own Sioux Indian language, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,” as Christ taught us and instructed us to say. I say the Apostle’s Creed and I believe it all.

I believe in the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church. I have now received six of these: Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, Holy Eucharist, Holy Matrimony, and Extreme Unction.

For very many years I went with several priests to fight for Christ among my people. For about twenty years I helped the priests and I was a catechist in several communities. So I think I know more about the Catholic religion than many white men.

For eight years I participated in the retreat for catechists and from this I learned a great deal about the faith. I am able to explain my faith. From my faith I know Who I believe in so my work is not in vain.

All of my family is baptized. All my children and grandchildren belong to the Catholic Church and I am glad of that and I wish very much that they will always follow the holy road.

I know what St. Peter has to say to those men who forsake the holy commandments. My white friends should read carefully 2 Peter 2:20-22.

I send my people on the straight road that Christ’s church has taught us about. While I live I will never fall from faith in Christ.

Thirty years ago I knew little about the one we call God. At that time I was a very good dancer. In England I danced before our Grandmother, Queen Victoria. At that time I gave medicines to the sick. Perhaps I was proud, I considered myself brave and I considered myself to be a good Indian, but now I think I am better.

St. Paul also became better after his conversion. I know that the Catholic religion is good, better than the Sun dance or the Ghost dance. Long ago the Indians performed such dances only for glory. They cut themselves and caused the blood to flow. But for the sake of sin Christ was nailed on the cross to take our sins away. The Indian religion of long ago did not benefit mankind. The medicine men sought only glory and presents from their curing. Christ commanded us to be humble and He taught us to stop sin. The Indian medicine men did not stop sin. Now I despise sin. And I want to go straight in the righteous way that the Catholics teach us so my soul will reach heaven. This is the way I wish it to be. With a good heart I shake hands with all of you.

(signed) Nick Black Elk

(http://catholicism.org/ad-rem-no-158.html)


I share this with you because you need to know, as a Catholic I do not care if Jesus was born in March or December.  I do not care that an ancient pagan religion once celebrated the Sun being born again on December 25th.

I care only that Jesus, the Son and Eternal Light came into the world.  On December 25th, I celebrate THAT reality...and I do so by attending the Mass of Christ (Christmas).


May God bless you this Advent Season.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Guess Who is NOT going to the Concert?

In 1974/75 I was a freshman at UC Berkeley and became friends with a gal named Marcia.  We were 'wild child wannabes' though I will admit she was far more sophisticated in that area than me.  We had many adventures together, all around our love for The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart and Faces and Rock and Roll in general.

The most fun we had was when we spent three days sleeping in the parking lot of the Cow Palace in San Francisco.  We did it so we could be up front for the Stones.  It was cold.  It was rainy.  It was a blast.  My Uncle Karl and Auntie Della brought us Kentucky Fried Chicken.  My Dad and Mom brought us a big ol' tarp to use to huddle under to keep out of the rain and my father stood there with a big grin on his face when all the kids in the area stood up and applauded him for doing that - and setting it up for us.

Poor Dad...he had no freaking idea what was happening but hey, he was going to bring his daughter a tent so she wouldn't get too wet.

I had a blast at that concert.  I have attended almost every Rolling Stone concert in the Bay Area since then, missing the last one because I just did not have the money for a ticket.  I loved every one of them.  I attended them stoned and I attended them sober.  The Rolling Stones are my band.  I do not sit down or sit still during their concerts.

Imagine my excitement, therefore, when their upcoming stadium tour was announced!  YIPPPEEE!  A chance to go see my favorite band during what HAS to be their last hurrah, right?  I mean, even Keith can't last that much longer.

Then I saw the date they are due to perform at Levi Stadium and I realized I can't go because I have two other commitments that weekend.  Darn.  Disappointment.

And Laughter.

My life has changed dramatically since 1974 and I have chronicled a lot of that in this blog.  My readers are aware that I am a recovering Alcoholic who, as a result of the healing found in a 12 step program, returned to full communion with the Catholic Faith.  I am now a life professed Lay Dominican, a Catechist, a lover of football and rock and roll and the steward of Scottish Terriers and silly cats.  I never did remarry, never had children of my own but today I get to be in service to over 800 children at my parish where I work as the Coordinator of the school of religion.  I am far from perfect (a nephew still won't speak to me) but I love my life today.  It is second to none.

But it is definitely different....and I mean REALLY different...from what it was in 1974. It is a reflection of a change that happened in 1992,  the year I surrendered to God and to the 12 step program that saved my life.   The way I live today resembles that which it was meant to be from the moment of my Baptism.  I begin and end with prayer.  I live a Sacramental and Liturgical life.  I have not withdrawn from the world; rather, I now look at all the world has to offer through the eyes of faith, through a new pair of glasses.  While not perfect I am not afraid to aim for perfection.  I am not afraid to do it because I understand that failing to reach it doesn't make me the failure but failing to try can and I do not want to spend eternity in failure.

I understand more perfectly that the life I am called to lead as a Catholic is not for everyone, but it is open to all.  I want people to understand it but I am okay if they exercise their gift of free will and chose not to, either by going down an easier path or rejecting the existence of that path all together.  If they are angry at me for being a Catholic or for believing in God I can love them anyway and keep them in prayer.  I can resist their attempts at injustice towards me and my kind, but I can resist it in the was Pope St. John Paul II resisted the Nazis and the Communists - with Love.

Today I am a different woman than the little girl trying to be sophisticated and worldly because I have found a different world in which to be sophisticated.  It is not a world of glitter, it is a world of light.  It is not a world of alcohol and drugs, it is a world of Body and Blood.  It is not a world of wanton sex but a world of right relationship.  It is not a world of lonely dependence upon another human being for my self worth but a world of full dependence upon a Power greater than myself,  the Omnipotent and Omnipresent Power of God.

So when I saw the date for the Stones performance in my 'home town' I was disappointed - for a minute. You see, that is the day we scheduled for the Spanish Mass for First Holy Communion.  I get to help usher in 35 little ones as they receive Our Lord in the Eucharist for the very first time in their lives.  And that night?  That night I get to drive to Reno because the next day I participate as a speaker at a convention of like minded and similarly afflicted types, trying to stay sober one day at a time.

Yes, my life is very, very different today.  Of course I would love to see the Stones.  But God has work for me to do that weekend.

And He comes first.


Monday, November 26, 2018

Advent Begins December 2 - why bother?

I read the saddest post on FaceBook today.

A medical doctor advised a patient to (essentially) only love those who return the love.  This doctor told his patient that "no matter how good and kind (one is) to people, if actions are not reciprocated you are being used whether it is family or friends."

This probably does not seem like a sad post to most of the world, but to me it sums up what has gone terribly wrong with our society today.  We look for what we are getting - and if we give, it is with an eye towards whether or not it was worth giving in the first place.  If the person, or people, we love do not love us back we are being used.  We are being hoodwinked. We are nothing to admire, no one to emulate.  Why would you want to be someone who just loves without return?

In this month's Magnificat Magazine, one of my Dominican brethren quotes Pope Benedict the XVI who wrote, in 1964 (before he became Pope) the following:

"Being a Christian means having love.  That is unbelievably difficult and, at the same time, incredibly simple.  Yet however difficult it may be in many respects, discovering this is still a profoundly liberating experience".

Why would this be liberating?  Father Garrigou-Lagrange, OP asserts that is it because most of us think love is earned by our behavior.  Because we cannot comprehend the infinite sea of God's Love, we think we have to behave a certain way or do certain things or even, heaven forbid, LOOK a certain way in order to be lovable.

I think the attitude of the doctor demonstrates this belief and adds a layer to it.  Love, to be love, in his mind must be reciprocated. If it is not, it is wasted and it can cause the lover harm.  

Yet, that is not the love of which the Christian speaks.  It is not the love to which the Christian aspires and it is not the love that the Christian tries to imitate.  

We are called, by Jesus, to be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect (St.Matthew 5:48).  Holy Scripture gives example after example of this unselfish love, a love that is freely given and not withdrawn when the behavior of the beloved is less than stellar. 

For Catholics, this is not as daunting as it may sound to the rest of the world.  Through the Church, we have a Sacramental and Liturgical life that is designed to give us the grace we need to keep loving even when we are ignored or, worse, when our outstretched hand is slapped away.  We are not to turn our back, we are to open our arms and love more.  We are to imitate the promises of Christ, the greatest of which is fulfilled on the Cross.  

I think we have lost this basic understanding of Christianity.  I think, because that has been lost, we have had it replaced with the idea of 'healthy love' - a love that is given on the condition that we get a return on our investment.  We have, I believe, becomes so caught up in the 'me me me' of the world that an outward focus has become something to denigrate unless it produces tangible, measurable results.  We can give food to the homeless because we can see them eat it.  To love the sister who is an alcoholic, who gets drunk and calls at all hours of the night to talk about the stuff that happened when you were 12 years old and how mom always loved you best - that is 'dangerous'.  

If I only loved people who loved me back, there would be a lot of people not on my prayer list.  I forgive when necessary.  I apologize when necessary.  I love no matter what - even if I have to do it through tears of hurt and shame.  When I feel that need to be loved in return, what I know is I am failing in my spiritual development and it warrants a trip - first to the Adoration Chapel and then to the Confessional and then...to receive the Eucharist.

I take that call from the drunk who decides, at 2am, to call me and tell me how much she hates me because I think I am perfect.  I wait until she is done telling me off and I tell her this:  I am sorry I hurt you. I love you.  Thank you for telling me how I can improve.  Now, how about you go to sleep and let's see about meeting up at a meeting tomorrow?

The Catholic Church has a history rich with saints who spent their physical strength in giving to the poor.  No matter how tired, not matter their own suffering they walked, the taught, they listened and they helped. Oftentimes they did so despite the jeers of those around them.  Their doctors told them they were killing themselves.  They knew they were giving of themselves...and they did so because of Love.

That is my ideal.  I want to be that unselfish. I fail, usually in a spectacular fashion, but it is something I still keep trying to do, to be, to imitate.

This Advent Season, let's try to show the world what it means to be a Christian - that it is about Love...a Love that is unconditional and offered to all.  Let's remember - we are loved because of who God is, not because of who WE are - God is good, infinite and eternal.

Let's practice our Faith....and let's prove the doctor wrong.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Kristen Olsen is Right - The GOP has committed suicide

Former California State Assemblywoman, and current County Supervisor, Kristen Olsen wrote an interesting OpEd piece in the Modesto Bee on November 13th, 2018.  

A lifelong Republican, Ms. Olsen delivered an address at the California Priorities Summit where she stated that she believes the California Republican party is a victim of its refusal to separate itself "today’s toxic, national brand of Republican politics.".   

I agree.  In fact, I more than agree.  I stand on a chair, swing a kitchen towel around and yell, "IT'S ABOUT TIME SOMEONE SAID SOMETHING!".

I can look back on my development as a voting member of the citizenry and see what most would call a natural progression of beliefs.  I am the embodiment of the old saying often attributed to Churchill.  When I voted for the first time, at age 18, I voted Libertarian.  My reasons were not because of the values of small government and self sufficiency that group espoused; rather, it was because they stated that Marijuana should be legal.  I smoked Marijuana.  Therefore, that was my party.

Taxes?  Government spending? Social Justice programs? International trade? War?  Crime?  Who cares!  I was 18, a senior in High School and wanted to be edgy.

As I grew in knowledge and experience, I aligned myself with the then Democratic Party.  The ideals seemed right.  Also, my father was a staunch conservative and WW2 vet and immoral, a racist
 and a variety of other things that pointed to his lack of heart for the little guy.  Therefore, in reaction to him, I aligned myself with the party of what was then good solid Catholic Social Justice.  The DNC espoused beliefs in stuff I could support and keep my 'I am a Good Person' card.

Getting sober, returning to my Catholic Faith, facing my past (I am a post abortive woman) and making amends to my family (and God) has had a great deal to do with my changing political beliefs.  For one thing, removing alcohol and drugs from my life allowed me to exercise my brain and make decisions based on facts and emotions.  I align myself more and more with the Will of God and I found myself less and less able to give myself whole-heartedly to either political party.  My affiliation would change with each election cycle - sometimes a registered Democrat, sometimes a registered Republican.

I read more.  I learned more about me, about my Faith traditions, about the reasoning behind things like the Dignity of the Human Person.

I worked in different areas - Social Services, Health Services, Law Enforcement.  I found myself more willing to listen, to try and determine what the cause behind a person assertion was and then examine that cause.

Eventually, because of the toxic nature of national politics, I left BOTH parties, never to return.  Because I get to have friends who have supported Donald Trump and friends who proudly put knitted hats with cat ears on their heads, I have discovered a personal truth.

I do not belong with either side.

Women who march against Mr. Trump do not represent me; however, most of the women who support Donald Trump do not represent me either.  Women who wear signs saying they are 'proud' of their abortions are the same ones who, forty years ago told me to shut up about the emotional pain I was feeling because I would 'ruin it' for everyone.  The women who declare things like "women who wait to report a sexual assault" are the same ones who told me I 'asked for it' when I was raped and beaten because, after all, I was an active alcoholic at that time so what did I expect.

Men who declare themselves 'pro women' dismiss women like me as religious fanatics and won't listen to me either - we do not matter to them.  If I dare to ask them why it is ok for a man to mock my religion and my gender I am told to just shut up - after all, it is done for charity so I just need to keep quiet.

People who deny that there is such a thing as White Privilege in our society don't want me around and the people who declare that someone like Elizabeth Warren is a indigenous person don't want me to open my mouth.

Lest you think I am an orphan, let me assure you that I am not.  Politically I am no longer affiliated with the GOP or the DNC.  I am neither blue nor red.  Instead, I am a member of - and newly appointed Vice Chair - of the American Solidarity Party of California.

Modeled on Christian Democratic Parties, we are a group that welcomes people of all Faiths and no Faith.  Our coming together grew from a dissatisfaction with the status quo and a refusal to accept that we HAVE to do things one way or no way.  Small?  You bet.  But we are growing for the very reasons Kristen Olsen outlined in her piece.  BOTH major parties are committing suicide.  People are convinced, however, that there is no answer and that is where we - the ASP - open a door to an alternative.

For me, a 62 year old woman with bleached out platinum hair, a love for the Rolling Stones, horror movies, Zombie shows and Forty-Niner Football and a determination to do her best to apply Catholic Social Teachings to all political issues, the American Solidarity Party is now my political home.  I proudly proclaim that I am a third party gal once again.  I belong to a party that believes being Pro-Life is different from being anti-abortion, that it is possible for communities to solve their problems with support from the federal government, rather than interference from the same.  We may not agree 100% with each other but the overall attempt in every day interaction is to LISTEN, evaluate and then come to an agreement based on our want for a common good and common ground while using common sense.

I am not a Nasty Woman.  I am not someone who thinks Michelle Obama is a man and her children are not her own.  I do not believe giving woman information on abortion and alternatives to that means I am trying to destroy reproductive rights and I do not think all immigrants need to be treated like cattle.  I support GOOD law enforcement, a strong military and a quest for peace in the world.  I do not think all Republicans are evil and all Democrats are evil.  I disagree with their parties' platforms.

Because  I believe that there are more men and women out there who are like me, I urge you all to learn about the American Solidarity Party.  We are NOT communists.  We are not trying to impose a theocracy in the United States.  We are men and women who have tired of the ugly, toxic and flat out wacky behavior of our fellow Americans and we want to offer you a political home.

Find us here  and do not lose heart.  The GOP and the DNC may be killing themselves, but you can find refuge from their bloodletting.








Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Evil in The World - Our Reaction to this Mystery

A dear friend of mine was dealt a blow this past week.  Her five year old niece was murdered.

Both of us aunties are committed Christians.  Our path requires us to find a way to forgive the unforgiveable, to react to horror not with vengeance but with love and to rely upon Jesus Christ as our sole support.  This is what we are held to, the standard we must aspire to, and we have to do it with a fallen nature and no support in that endeavor from the world at large.

I expressed my anger and sadness to a friend of mine who calls himself an atheist.  When I told him how angry I was at the perpetrator, he immediately pointed out that I am a hypocrite because being a Catholic means I must forgive the perpetrator and love him anyway.

It did not surprise me that this was the reaction.  Most people today are ignorant of the meaning of the word hypocrite and think that struggling with an ideal means we don't believe the ideal.  That could not be further from the truth.  I believe completely in all that the Catholic Church teaches and proclaims as Truth.  I struggle with a lot of it all the time, because it is hard and it is unpopular and it can mean people won't like me.    When I fail to meet that standard, I don't think it means I don't embrace it or profess it to be true.  I think it means I failed.  If my failure causes me to sin, I get my butt to the confessional and I make myself right with God.

I struggle with this standard because I have a vivid imagination.  I cannot get the picture out of my head of the little, blonde haired, blue-eyed five year old being subjected to such brutality.  I cannot shake the sadness of knowing how scared she must have been, how confused, how she could not figure out why this horrible man was so angry at her...how she must have wanted her mommy and then, blackness...

I then find comfort in knowing that as her life left her body, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was waiting right there for her.  That He gathered her into His arms and welcomed her into heaven.  How all that was left was a battered body, one that will be glorified at the resurrection.  That she was welcomed into the Beatific Vision and that her prayers before the throne of the Most High is now helping her father, her mother, her older brothers, her family and their friends walk through this tragedy.

While I find it necessary that this man face judgement and hope he receives the maximum sentence for this crime, I also pray for his conversion.  I pray that he comes to accept what he did, that he turns to Jesus Christ for forgiveness of his sins and that he pleads guilty in a court of law so as to spare her family the pain of a trial.  I pray that he seek Truth, that while in prison he find his way to the One, Holy and Apostolic Catholic Church and that he remain in prison for the remainder of his life - and that he do God's Will while he is there, bringing others to know and love Jesus.

I deliberately and intentionally turn away from wanting to hate him.  I deliberately and intentionally reject the language of revenge.

I have to - I am a Catholic.  I am held to a higher standard.  I am held to a standard I seldom attain.

But whose fault is that?

Please pray for the repose of the soul of little Hartley.  And please pray for her father, her mother, her brothers, her extended family.

And for the perpetrator, that he find redemption in Jesus.