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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Breeding Like Rabbits - NOT the Catholic Way

Yesterday the mainstream press once again trumpeted a headline about Pope Francis.  In what can only be described as gleeful and surprised tones, the main captions above pictures of the Holy Father speaking to the press midflight read "Pope says Catholics should not Breed like Rabbits".

Immediately, many people who do not understand Catholic theology (and have no intention of ever understanding Catholic theology and teaching) flipped out.  Depending upon their political stance, their reactions varied between "This guy isn't even Catholic any more" and "I bet this means Catholics will get to use the Pill without going to confession".  Some of the more bizarre members of either side of the spectrum decided this means we can have Women Priests. 

The Catholic Church teaches:

2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil:

Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality. . . . The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.

Anyone who takes the time to read this section of the Catechism is going to focus on the word 'rhythm" and start laughing.  O those crazy Catholics - still using the 'rhythm method'.  Others are going to wonder how avoiding having sexual relations with one's spouse during peak times of probably fertilization is any different than artificial contraception - after all, aren't you doing that for the same reason?  To avoid children?  Why is one ok and the other a sin?

Both attitudes fail to notice the essence of the teaching; that being the idea of total self-giving that should define a marriage.  Too long have we labored under the impression that marriage is a 50/50 proposition.  This idea has lead to divorce.  Bringing two people together and telling them to meet each other halfway means that each one gets to decide where that halfway mark is and whether or not they have met it to their own satisfaction.

Telling a man and a woman that marriage is 100/100 percent, each spouse required to give themselves totally and completely to the other, is not in accordance with today's mindset.  Being willing to sacrifice, to nurture, to give until one is totally spent is considered old fashioned, unhealthy, and a way towards domination of one person over the other.

To be fair, there is a reason for this: rarely has this notion of total self giving and sacrifice made itself into the mainstream in a fair and reasonable manner.  What has happened, over and over again, is that the physically weaker of the species has given of itself to its detriment.  Those of the physically stronger sex - usually male - who have given totally of themselves to their mate have been derided as weak - I believe the term used has been 'pussy whipped' - and so made to feel as though the only way they can really show how wonderful they are is to impose their will on the other person 'for their own good'.

The translation into the secular legal system was not kind to females.  People forget.  We were not allowed to have our own bank accounts, our own lines of credit, given a seat in the classroom of higher learning in places like Harvard or Yale because we might take a spot from a man who would need it to support a family.  Women were not appreciated for their talent or their intelligence except in rare cases. 

While we may today sing out loud that  the woman is the heart and soul of the home, often times that translated into never being able to leave the home.  My experience is becoming that many of our younger, male Catholic writers have failed to acknowledge this and spend far too much time lamenting and wishing for the 'good ol' days'.  Most of the time they forget - some of those days were far from good, if you were a woman who had been dumped at the side of the road for a younger model or beaten into submission, or essentially sold into slavery by parents who wanted you to have a 'good marriage'.

All this is acknowledged and understood.  I do not believe the feminist movement of the 1950's,60's or 70's came into being in a vacuum.  I am not so na├»ve.

What I like to point out in this teaching, however, is the overlooked word "respect".

Catholic Teaching on procreation, sexuality, and the body focuses one on respect for the natural functions of the body.  It urges one to learn about how the body works, to understand the marvelous mechanism that was given to us by our Creator, and to respect its right to function without artificial restraint.  Instead of making a woman ingest chemicals that expose her to harm in order to avoid conceiving a child, it asks a man to respect her right to not have sexual relations with him during her fertile time.  Instead of asking a man to surgically mutilate himself, we as women are asked to include him in our decision making, to teach him about how we function and to respect him by loving him enough to fully incorporate his needs and wants into our lives.  The man is asked to love us as Christ loves the Church - and for those who care to think about this, Christ gave up His Life for The Church.

Today I look back on my life and see so many places where I went wrong.  I do not regret the past, but I wish sometimes I had taken the time to learn what The Church teaches about love, marriage and sexuality.  I wish I had not limited myself and my freedom by trying so hard to live the way the world told me a young, liberated woman should live.

I wish I had not believed the lies.

The Holy Father is right.  Catholics are not asked to breed like rabbits.

We are asked to be fruitful and multiply.

There is a big, big difference.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Funny thing happened on the way to Heaven

At the first meeting of the year the Fra Angelico Chapter of Lay Dominicans members choose the focus of our prayer for the year.  We are given the name of someone in our chapter, the name of a deceased Dominican and the name of a Dominican who is a member of Church Militant and we commit to praying for them every day of the year.

I love this custom.  I always get a great prayer warrior praying for me and I accept a challenge to my own spiritual development; that is, to be someone else's prayer warrior.  It gives me a sense of purpose and it allows me to never forget that I matter.  I am a small part of a greater whole and what I do, how I do it and what I say matters.

This year I will be praying or a member of our order who is a father of young children.  That is a real responsibility because the role of a father is paramount in a child's development.  At the risk of upsetting a lot of women, I believe a child needs a father and a mother.  If circumstances prevent this, a child needs a strong, loving and purposeful male role model in their life.  I believe a child deserves two sane parents but, if circumstances prevent this they need at least one.  In my case that sanity was provided by my mother.  My father, bless his heart, was not a good father and not a good role model for my brother.  We both suffered as a result of his verbal, emotional and, in the case of my brother, physical abuse.  Any success we have obtained in our lives is the result of two things:  our mother and the guidance of Holy Mother Church.  I resisted this idea for years, especially the Holy Mother Church part, but now that I am firmly planted in middle age, I have no problem giving credit where credit it due.  Both of them gave my my moral structure, my love of learning and my longing for structure and discipline that today gives me a life that is second to none.  The fact that I had to return to that type of life by hiking through, and occasionally camping in for long periods of time, the world of alcoholism is pretty funny.  I am grateful I made it through that territory relatively unscathed.  I am sorry it cost me the lives of my children and my ability to entertain people on stage or screen or both. I do not regret the past and I damn sure will never shut the door on it because my dark past is, today, my greatest asset.

We were given something else at our chapter meeting on Saturday.   One of our members handed us a prayer for the new year credited to St Thomas Becket.  St. Thomas Becket, an English saint, had stood firm in the face of an aggressive state government.  As Archbishop of Canterbury, he did not believe the secular government could push The Church around and tell it what to do in matters of Faith and Morals.  He was murdered in a church and when the king heard of the murder he withdrew from public and fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in repentance.

That's wonderful - but let me share the prayer credited to this brave man:

May God make your year a happy one!  
Not by shielding you from all sorrows and pain,
But by strengthening you to bear it, as it comes;
Not by making your path easy,
But by making you sturdy to travel any path;
Not by taking hardships from you,
But by taking fear from your heart;
Not by granting you unbroken sunshine;
But by keeping your face bright, even in shadows;
Not by making your life always pleasant,
But by showing you when people and their causes need 
You most, and by making you anxious to be there to help.
God's love, peace, hope and joy to you for the year ahead.

See, I read this and I am struck by two things;
  1.  Being Catholic means giving your entire heart, soul, being and body to Jesus Christ.  
  2.  Being Catholic does not mean your life is going to be joyful and easy according to that which is held most valuable in the world.

I am also struck by the idea that I am not a living saint.  

In fact, I would pretty much bet on that if I were you.  Leslie K. is not a living saint.  She does not suffer well.  She does not put up with a lot of discomfort.  She does not bear up well under close scrutiny.  She sins, she gets discouraged, she wishes people would calm down and stop being idiotic.  She gets impatient waiting for God to do the deal the way she thinks it should be done and has to be constantly reminded that God's time is perfect and God's solution is perfect.

In other words, Leslie K. is not a living saint and is very well aware that she is blessed to be a member of The Catholic Church where such a state is not the requirement for membership.

I understand the need for assurance and now wonderful it can be to think we know the ending but I am often struck by the Faith that is required to practice Christianity the way the Apostles meant for us to practice it.  I know, for instance, that I cannot earn my salvation.  Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross, the Paschal Mystery, is what opened the gates of heaven to me.  What I also know is I can lose that gift by turning away from His Teachings, by rejecting His Church.  I know that it would be perfectly possible to cry, "Lord Lord" when standing in front of Him.  It is perfectly possible to have Jesus look me straight in the eye and say, "I do not know you".  

It is that knowledge that keeps me close to His Church.  It is that understanding that focuses me on the entire package.  I never want to become the kind of person who thinks that I can do whatever I want to whomever I want and still stroll arrogantly into heaven.  

Recently, I was called a liar by someone who holds to a theology that states, "Once saved, always saved".  That behavior ended the friendship.  I accepted her apology, of course, and I forgive her for that transgression.  She is in my daily prayers, along with my Dominican brothers and sisters (living and dead).  However, I will no longer interact with her in the way I was willing to do so in the past.  I have been verbally punched and abused for the past year and a half by people who later say, "Oh.  Sorry" and then continue the behavior.  As Dr Phil says, you teach people how to treat you and I made that mistake during those relationships.  No more.  You may not call me names.  It is no longer allowed.  

Instead, you can disagree with me and you can ask me questions.  You can offer me your take on situations and you can share your ideas and knowledge with me. 

You may not verbally, emotionally or physically abuse me.  Those days are done.

And this is why I know I don't have it in me to be a saint.  I can only hope that, at the moment of my death, God provides me with people to pray for me as I journey through the necessary fire on my way to heaven.

And I really hope to one day hear, "Well done, girl...welcome home".

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Horror in Paris

I am so saddened by the events in Paris.  I am angry that anyone, anyone, would blame the victims by suggesting that they knew this type of thing would anger Muslims and so should never have printed offensive cartoons.

I have been trying to phrase my response in an appropriate manner but I found that someone else has done so for me.  I am quoting from a blog post by Thomas L. McDonald.

Quote: "There’s nothing gained by sloppy sentimentality at moments like this. Charlie Hebdo and its staff were no friends to anyone of belief. They were cynical, nihilistic, and blasphemous, as is their right in our post-Enlightenment, pluralistic world. This relativistic individuality may or not be a good and healthy  thing, but now isn’t the time for that debate.

What’s obvious is that these writers, editors, and cartoonists were able to offend Christians and Jews without any fear of reprisal. They published one of the most offensive cartoons I’ve ever seen. I’ll link it here, but be warned in advance: it shows Jesus (crown of thorns, holes in his hands and feet) sodomizing God the Father and being sodomized in turn by the “Holy Spirit.”

There’s no deeper meaning in the image: it’s just a child’s outburst.  It’s offensive, yet I never considered killing anyone over it. My religion makes it clear that kind of reaction would be a violation of God’s laws. Islam, however, is considerably less clear on the subject, with both the Koran and the Hadith offering dozens of passages alternately urging violence and peace. And therein lies of the problem of the West’s long and violent interaction with Islam."

For more, please click on:

I have stated many times to people that the differences between 'us' and 'them' are many.  Pointing them out is not bigotry; rather it is confronting an uncomfortable truth.  We have been at war with Islam for centuries.  The Crusades, for which we Catholics get beaten up over all the time, were not called forth in a vacuum.  The Siege of Vienna and the Battle of Lupanto really happened.  We need to recognize this, call it for what it is and stop blaming the victims who have the audacity to stand up as free men and women and assert their independence from fear.
I am regularly offended and hurt by the nasty, out of context and poorly researched assertions made against my fellow Catholics and Holy Mother Church.  I would never, in a million years, consider going over to the person's home or place of business, machine gun in hand, and killing the perpetrator and anyone else that happens to be standing around because I am offended.  If I did that, I would be a bad Catholic.
My heart breaks for France.

Friday, January 2, 2015

New Year, Fresh Start - Welcome 2015

2844 Christian prayer extends to the forgiveness of enemies, transfiguring the disciple by configuring him to his Master. Forgiveness is a high-point of Christian prayer; only hearts attuned to God's compassion can receive the gift of prayer. Forgiveness also bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin. The martyrs of yesterday and today bear this witness to Jesus. Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their Father and of men with one another.

There is nothing like a new year to strengthen one's resolve for a fresh start at life.  I believe forgiveness, as an act of the will, is the best way for a fresh start.

I have much to ask forgiveness for; this whole 'being human' thing can be pretty tricky.  I also have much to forgive and when one suffers from the sin of pride as often as I do, forgiving others can be difficult.

Listen, I should be clearer on this:  I can forgive pretty easily; it's the forgetting part I have trouble doing.  I can forgive readily; it's forgiving while no longer allowing wacky and destructive behavior to be a part of my every day life that is really tough.

Last week, for instance, someone I do not know and have no interaction with at all sent a rather snarky private message to me on Facebook.  They started their message with one of those accusatory statements no one can answer.  You know the type.  They look like this: "Hey, you, exactly what kind of person leaves their dirty underwear on the front porch?  It's the same type of question that is sometimes a punch line for prosecuting attorneys when they are telling a lawyer joke (So then I said, "exactly when did you stop beating your dog?" and boy that shut him up).

The person then went on to write:

I just came across a couple of your blogs and felt they were done without being mindful of anonymity.....just didn't seem right to me, and I been around the program for 28 years.

This was immediately followed up with one of those statements that is meant to stop the conversation (it doesn't matter, have a good new year).

I have come to identify this type of communication as the Emotional Drive By Shooting.  The person is angry.  They want to 'get you'.  Unfortunately, they realize about a second after they hit the 'send' button that they made a really dumb mistake and they scramble to take it back.  Having endured this type of verbal folderol for years I no longer play this game.  Instead, I request an explanation from the shooter and then I respond to just what they have written.

The question of anonymity, for instance, is pretty easy to answer.  I use guidelines established by the 12 step program to which I owe my sobriety.  I do not use my last name.  I do not name anyone I interact with as a sponsor or a sponsee.  I speak to what I experience and I do so in a general way.

The focus of my blog is to examine what it is like to be a Catholic, a woman and sober in today's society.  If someone hates my Church, my politics, the manner in which I handle my personal life that is their right.  I would suggest, as I suggested to this particular drive by shooter, that if they find my thoughts and expressive manner offensive they need to stop reading the blog.

The other part of this that stuck out for me is the way the person chose to describe themselves.  Note, please, that they did not claim to be SOBER for 28 years; rather, they stated they have been 'around the program' for that long.  This can indicate that they have been sober for 2 years, 2 days, 20 years or are not sober now. 

Being 'around' something does not mean one is an active participant.  It does not mean they have ever read the guidelines published for this medium and can mean they have a rather cockeyed interpretation of anonymity and how it is practiced.  Because I understand this, I offered to continue the conversation verbally and told the person they could contact me directly and I would be happy to speak to them.  They chose to block me immediately, which (quite frankly) is probably a really good idea.

I share this because I have really struggled over the past two months with trying to defend and explain myself, my choices, my actions and my words to a group of people who are not sober, not Catholic and are truly bigoted in their approach to the world.  My religion, the one they hate so much, requires that I forgive them.  My sobriety, without which I would not be able to practice my religion, requires that I forgive them.  My stubborn Irish/Italian pride requires that I hunt them down and smash them in the head with a shillelagh or a cream pie, which ever happens to be handy at the moment. Concupiscence, that tendency we all have towards sinful behavior, wants me to (at least) go to meetings of like-minded and similarly afflicted people and hit them at group level using the soft and deadly words most people with five years or more sobriety know how to use (my sponsor told me that often times these people are spiritually sick and we should not treat sick people badly and that I need to pray for them).

Every single person, Catholic or not, struggles with the practical application of forgiveness.  Does forgiving someone mean allowing for bad behavior to continue?  I don't think it does; in fact, I know it doesn't.  While the Church may grow from the blood of martyrs She does not require us to purposefully and intentionally invite verbally or physically abusive people into our homes, virtual or otherwise.  If someone is repeatedly and predictably attacking you, get out of their reach.  Disengage.  Keep them in prayer, of course, and place them solidly in the heart and arms of Our Lord but do not keep leading with your chin.  This is not good for you but, more importantly, it is not good for them.

This is what allowed me to capture some clarity around this issue - the idea that I can be of true service to someone by removing myself from their line of vision, from their home, from their life.  It is not me throwing them away for my own convenience; rather, it is me recognizing that for whatever reason I am an object of torture and derision for them and they are not doing well having me in their life.  I am hurting them. I am causing them pain. 

It is better that they not have anything to do with me.

Of course, it won't feel that way to them.  They will feel unloved and discarded and they will demand an explanation.  However, nothing I can say to them will be a good enough explanation.

If they want to walk the same spiritual path I walk, they know where the Catholic Church is and they know how I stay sober.  No one is keeping them from either place.  They are welcome.  They do not need me to find Jesus or sobriety.

So, this year I resolve to try to be more open about who and what I am so people who are not inclined towards my way of life can be honest and walk away from me.  I hope to grow as a Catholic, as a woman.  I hope to deepen my prayer life and my relationship with Holy Mother Church.  I want my relationship with The Triune God to become much more than merely 'personal'.  I want it to be intimate in the way a Bride and Bridegroom are intimate.  I want to do better.

I also want to lose thirty more pounds.

Have a fabulous New Year, everyone.....God bless you!

Monday, December 29, 2014

What a Glorious Christmas/Birthday!

God blessed me and mine with the best Christmas in over five years.  My mother and I were invited guests to my brother's home and we had a lovely, lovely time.  The food was excellent, the company fantastic.  We laughed, we ate, we celebrated the day.  Though my brother remains far from Holy Mother Church we know that our prayers and petitions are being answered and both of us continue to trust that God will touch his heart.  The fires of his Baptism and Confirmation will be rekindled.  He will return in God's time, of that I am sure.

Our birthday (yes, he and I share a birthday) was just a blast!  We went out to dinner with cousins to Surla's in Modesto.  The chef (chef extraordinaire, in my humble opinion) has put my Grandmother Crocco's meat sauce on the menu.  It is properly prepared.  The mere smell transported me back to her kitchen at The Ranch.  All that was missing were her ravioli (the ones he served with them were ok but not enough filling. I love my ravioli and I want them fat like Grandma used to make).  The evening was so fun.  Surrounded by family, we toasted our birthdays and made plans for me to party DOWN when my next one rolls around - 60 is something to celebrate, I think.  59 seems just old and tired...but 60?  Shoot, for someone with my past reaching that age and still be able to dress myself and walk properly is a real accomplishment.

My only complaint?  I could not get in to see the movie Unbroken.  Every theater was sold out!

I also received an odd email.  I have a feeling it was not meant for me but was sent in error.  It reads as follows:

To: Leslie
I think it's stupid that some members of (the 12th Step Program to which I belong) want to define our friendship as one in which I was a so-called "victim" of Catholicism and it's teachings. How incredibly insulting. To all those who know Leslie and who know about our differences, she never, ever, tried to "convert" me to Catholicism. I inquired about the Catholic faith. She never, ever tried to "convert" me to the Catholic faith tradition. What an insult to me and to her. I have a mind of my own and I can think on my own.


While I am very grateful that the person who sent this to me does not see me as victimizing them with either Catholic Teaching or my love for Holy Mother Church, I question why anyone in the 12th Step Program to which I belong would think this way.  In fact, the only people I can think of that would think like this are people who do not know me, are incredible bigots (we do have a lot of those around, even today) or are not sober.

If you had shown this to me ten years ago, it would have really upset me.  I would have demanded to know who was saying these things.  I would have confronted them, telling them exactly what I think of their bigoted, nasty mind set and then bombarding them with my incredible knowledge of Catholic Doctrine to prove what horrible people they are - but that was then.

This is now.

Today, my first thought is, "Really?  People in our 12 step program who profess to believe in Love and Tolerance as a code, have spoken to you like this?".  My second thought is, "Those poor souls.  How broken and sad they are to treat the Truth in that matter".  And finally, my third thought is, "I wonder if the Niners will promote Vic Fangio or Tom Tomsula to Head Coach now that Harbaugh is gone or if they will go outside the organization and grab Mike Holmgren or Jon Gruden?".

Every day someone hates the Catholic Church.  Our beloved Archbishop Fulton Sheen maintained that they really hated what they think the Catholic Church is and not the Church Herself and I tend to agree with him.  Since any organization, even one as wonderful as the 12 Step Program that brought me to sobriety, reflects the society at large this same kind of misguided hatred will be a part of the fellowship.  It is not my job to eradicate it; rather, it is my job to just love the lost, walk with dignity and grace and hope that someday these sad little people will get the pot smoke out of their eyes long enough to see how sad and ugly they are behaving if and when they do what this person is accusing them of doing.

Every day I am reminded that the Catholic Church is the Church Jesus founded and so, if I want to be a true Christian, this is the Church to which I should belong.  I believe this and I live this but if you don't, that's up to you.

As we approach the coming year, my prayer is for the lost and the lonely and those who have been so broken by today's world.  Know that you are valued and loved but that Jesus believes, with His Grace, that you are called to greatness and you can achieve it.

Have a FANTASTIC day!