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Thursday, October 20, 2016

It is all going to be OKAY

One of my most unexpected and startling personal victories has to be my acceptance that, no matter what goes on around me, God is personally and particularly concerned with my welfare.  He loves me.  He wants me to be happy, healthy, whole.  God wants me to spend eternity with Him in heaven and no matter how many times I throw away that opportunity or do damage to our relationship His  goal for me does not change.  I don't really have to worry about a thing.  God's got this, and God's got me.

That being said, one of my most difficult challenges in life is holding on to that knowledge or, rather, keeping that knowledge in the forefront of my tiny little brain.  I can start to worry in a minute.  I can get disgruntled, discontented and restless.  I can become convinced that the sky is falling if you just give me a minute and the right background music.

Normally I can pull myself back from the brink of despair but every once in awhile I have a down period that does not seem to have an expiration date.  It is those times that I need to reach out to a friend, call my 12 step sponsor, go to a meeting of like-minded and similarly afflicted types or run and sit quietly in the Adoration Chapel before the Body of Jesus.  If I take the right action, I can become okay again pretty quick.

This past political season has been a tough one on me and, I suspect, on anyone who is quiet and thoughtful when it comes to making their decisions as to voting.  I am a 1950's baby, the child of Depression and WWII era parents, a Catholic who remembers the excitement that gripped our parish when the first Catholic was elected President of the United States.  I can remember watching the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Wars being broadcast by NBC and CBS news, narrated by Cronkite and Huntley and Brinkley right into my living room as I sat on the floor with my Barbie.  I remember our heroes and I remember the villains and quite frankly life was easier back then.  The bad guys were Commies who spat on our troops and the bad guys sic'd dogs on young African American men who sat at lunch counters.  The police were both the good guys and the bad guys - it is no coincidence that my ultra conservative Southern father could use the N word in a sentence without shame AND advise me to never stop for an Oakland cop once I got my drivers license (he told me that if I saw a red light in my rearview mirror and I was within the Oakland city limits to floor it until I got to Berkeley and head for the police station in THAT city).  I was raised by a mother whose first language was not English.  I was taught to pray and say the Pledge of Allegiance, but that same mother could remember when SHE was taught that same pledge and the word GOD was not in it.  In other words, I had a fairly balanced upbringing - or as balanced as can be expected for a little Catholic White Girl in the Suburbs.  We had a political bent.  In those days it was considered Liberal...but not anymore.

Today, the traditional political stronghold for Catholics has been corrupted beyond belief.  I cannot support a Democratic candidate when the party that once championed Civil Rights now thinks such rights include the right to shove a pair of scissors into the brain of a child emerging from its mother's womb.  The political party of refuge for those with more conservative values has become a platform for reality tv.   People like me have been left behind, called haters and bigots because we do not believe abortion is a right or that marriage can be redefined by civil law.   It is not recognized that my kind are the ones opening our homes to those in society that have been discarded.  Rather, we are vilified because we don't believe respect extends to being okay with false science about gender identity or that Bruce Jenner should be given an award for taking female hormones. 

My kind is the first to send our loved ones into battle and we are the last ones anyone cares about when those same loved ones come home and cannot get a flipping doctor appointment while their nightmares increase, their drinking increases, their withdrawal from us worsens and we watch them fade from view.

I am one of the lucky ones.  I would say that 85% of my friends know how to express an opinion without being horrid.  They do not demand that others think like them and they do not find it necessary to imply that those who DO thinking differently are uneducated trash.  However, and I mean this with all my heart, I have been saddened that there are at least a portion of my friends who DO actually believe the drivel they post via Facebook memes and one sentence statements.  I have been shocked that people I thought were intelligent and thoughtful cannot seem to articulate their stance without attacking the stance of others.  I am tired of the pompous statements about sin.  I am exhausted by the holier than thou attitude exhibited by members of my Faith Tradition - on BOTH sides of the aisle - towards those who do not agree with them. 

As I have previously stated I found a political party I am comfortable with and so will not be voting for either Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump or Mr. Johnson.  I chose the course I am taking because, at my age, it is more important for me to be as clear as possible when standing in front of Jesus at the end of my life.  I don't think having Mrs. Clinton as our president is a signal of the end times.  Neither do I believe Mr. Trump is the anti-Christ. I don't think Mr. Johnson is an escaped mental patient.  I believe that our country will survive the presidency of any one of these people.


Because I firmly believe that God is All.  God's got this and no matter what happens, my job is to be able to look at myself in the mirror and like what I see.

My job is to fulfill God's destiny for me - to be able to spend eternity with Him in heaven....and I can do that no matter who gets 'married', no matter how many women make the tragic and horrible choice to end their child's life, no matter how many young men and women we march off to war and no matter where I go to Mass - Cathedral or Catacomb.

God's got this....and I am going to be okay.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Social Justice the Catholic Way

Father John Hardin's Modern Catholic Dictionary defines Social Justice as "The virtue that inclines one to co-operate with others in order to help make the institutions of society better serve the common good."

The definition continues, pointing out that the obligation for Social Justice falls upon the individual but that the individual cannot do it alone.  It has to be a group effort and it must be practiced within all levels of society - local, national and international.

The question becomes, of course, what defines the common good?  For the Faithful Catholic, a society that does not ok the killing of a child formed in the womb of a woman is a good society.  A society that does not think someone is expendable simply because they are old or does not make it okay for someone to kill themselves because they are unhappy with their life is a good society by our standards.  A society that states marriage is not a contract, it is a covenant and a sacrament and the civil government cannot redefine either one is considered a good society.

Conversely, those who oppose us (often in the Name of Jesus, which is interesting) think the exact opposite.  Allowing a woman the right to kill the child she carries is a good thing because it makes HER in charge of what goes on in HER body (even if it means destroying the body of a separate human being).  A society that deems pointless or wasteful money spent on the care of a man in his 90's who has a curable illness, or even a manageable illness, is a good society.  A society that redefines the word marriage to resemble a simple contractual living/financial arrangement is acting in the common good.

It seems to me that we have lost a foundational definition.  We can, as a society, no longer define the term 'common good' without getting into verbal or actual fisticuffs.  Because we can't define it, working for Social Justice within the parameters of Catholic Teaching looks much different from that work done outside of those parameters.

It feels, to me, that today I have to do much more than teach new or hopeful Catholics the basics.  Today, because of the minefield that has become the American Experience, it is necessary to teach those who wish to become a part of the Mystical Body of Christ that what may feel, look and even meet the criteria for justice in today's society may fall woefully short or go WAY overboard for the Faithful Catholic.

In today's climate I am required to look beyond the commercials on television featuring starving children or dogs and ask some questions.  If I want to walk this path towards Christ with any kind of integrity it is my responsibility to make sure what I donate my time, talent or treasure to is something of which Christ would approve.  I have to read, listen, discern and if I give in to a gut reaction I better make sure my gut has been properly formed.  I better make sure the cause is truly just.

Being a Catholic is not easy.  It is worth it, of course, because I get to partake in a life founded by Jesus and designed by the Holy Spirit.  No other Christian community can claim a historical connection to Jesus other than our Eastern Lung - the Orthodox - and I will not give up the privilege of receiving Him in the Eucharist ever again.  I gave that up for years.  It was a mistake.  It is not a mistake I will repeat.

The not so easy part comes with the territory, of course.  It is an interesting selling point - from the viewpoint of today's world.  As a Catechist I am telling someone that joining the Church Jesus founded means holding to beliefs members of your own family might reject.  It may result in ridicule from people who claim to love you.  You might be accused of all kinds of silly stuff and woe be to you if you make an error or commit a sin.  As a Catholic you will be holding opinions and beliefs the world will deem as politically incorrect.  All this fun stuff makes my job as a Catechist a little odd.  I cannot help but think that anyone who thinks Jesus is a myth underestimates human beings.  I cannot imagine being willing to be tortured, enslaved or beheaded for a myth.

Despite the lousy selling points I find that the people coming to us and asking for instruction do so because of a deep and real need to walk in communion with Jesus.  They are not ashamed of admitting they need Him and when they find that they can actually, really and totally give themselves to Him through the Eucharist they are eager to do so.  They may not understand everything yet but they want Truth.

So many of our young people come to me with a variation of "I was lied to by the world.  I am so unhappy.  This cannot be what I was born to be and I need something more".  It makes me ashamed of my generation.  We were spoiled little brats, too busy and self indulgent to be true parents but boy did we have a lot of criticism to dish out about our OWN parents.

Social Justice today has got to include preserving the family.  Unless we recapture and make sacred the ideal that children deserve stability, attention, nurturing, health and parameters of behavior we might as well forget trying to reform a school system or a justice system.  Until we look at every boy and girl in our circle and tell them "One day, if you become a mommy or a daddy, you are expected to make the raising of those children your vocation rather than a chance to get presents from your family and friends or wear cute maternity clothes" we are not doing our job in spreading Social Justice.

As a Catholic, I must make decisions that will not make sense to other people.  I will chose a direction to walk that will upset a lot more.  However, in all honesty, I cannot see any way out of it.

I am a Catholic.  Out Loud.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Suffering and The Cross

Christ has challenged us all to pick up our cross and follow Him. 

It sounds romantic and wonderful and inspiring. If you are dramatic like me you can conjure up thoughts of standing firm before the executioner's blade or intellectually dismantling a well-known protestant Catholic Hater.  You know - something grand and glittery.  The cold reality of life, however,  is that our crosses might be dull and mundane and seem like nothing to the person next to us.  In fact it can be difficult to even reach out to someone for help - to look for our own St. Simon of Cyrene - because we think our crosses are not worthy...we aren't in enough pain.

Buck up, we tell ourselves.  You can do this...and then one more time someone slaps us down and points out how poorly we are doing in our job or in our family or in life in general.  We know it is not that big a deal - we should not let whatever it is get us down - but it does anyway. 

So we keep quiet.  We shut the door to our office or our bedroom or we go to our car in the parking lot and we cry and feel ashamed that we are crying.  Why does this bother us so much, we ask ourselves.  It is not that big a deal.  There are children dying in Syria.  There are wonderful nuns undergoing chemo therapy.  There are people in our own neighborhoods without jobs or a place to live. 

Stop being such a baby.  Stop feeling sorry for yourself.  Stop thinking only of yourself.

I think, and I could be wrong, that one of the worst traps we can fall into is the trap that somehow whatever we are feeling is not worthy to be expressed.  We straighten our shoulders and plaster on a smile but the resentment we have is planted.

And what do we resent?

We resent that other people come to us with their feelings and we listen and tell them we understand and then we ask them if they would like feedback and if they say no, we shut up....and we listen...and we commiserate and we try very hard to not shame them for feeling sad or angry or beaten up or run over or overlooked....then we encourage them.

And it feels (though it probably is not true) that we have no one in our lives that will do that for us.

In my case I know it is not true.  I am surrounded by people who love me and support me and will stay on the phone with me in the middle of the night when I am facing my demons and feeling inadequate.  I am one of the blessed in this world - a widow woman with a good support system - and it is one thing for which I am deeply, deeply grateful.

Look around there someone in your life who is always there for you? 

Is anyone there for them?

Monday, September 12, 2016

A new Political Party

I am intrigued.

Normally I do not pay much attention to the Catholics currently ranting and raving about politics.  I have watched those who hate the current candidate for their party point fingers at those who disagree with them, declaring their opposition to be crazy, uneducated or downright sinful Catholics.  I have read posts on FB that make me smile because they are so condescending towards people who may disagree with the poster that they skirt the boundary of decency. 

Watching one FB rant and its subsequent replies (including my own, asking for the poster to please cite a reference for some of his quotes so I could read the whole article) I was amused to have someone point me in the direction of an interesting attempt at the establishment of a third political party.

The American Solidarity Party defines itself as " the only active Christian Democratic party in the United States" and from what I have read so far they are telling the truth.  If there is another group banding together to make a run at gaining political power in this country that embodies the youth, the ideals and the declarations of this group I don't know where it is or what it's called.

The ASP (and yes, I immediately looked at the logo to see if it was a big ol' snake.  It isn't - phew!) states that it stands for the sanctity of human life, the necessity of social justice, responsibility for the environment, and hopes for the possibility of a peaceful world.

Good GOD you can't get much better than that!

At this stage of my life, I do not see where voting my conscience will gain either Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton my endorsement.  Unlike the sparkly eyed 18 year old who first stepped into a voting booth, I am now a gimlet eyed, cranky ex-rock and roller filling out an absentee ballot at my kitchen table and writing in the name of my cousin for president.  I cannot stand either candidate, cannot trust either party and wish everyone would stop screaming at each other about walls and guns.  I am tired of being insulted by Mrs. Clinton and her minions and I am tired of the antics of Mr. Trump.  Both are an embarrassment to the American people and the fact that this is the best we have to offer should be a wake up call for the lot of us.

Instead it has caused otherwise loving and kind Catholics to degenerate into tribal factions of screaming harpies.   We are rude to each other.  We are cruel to each other.  We claim rich athletes are incapable of holding an opinion about oppression because they ARE rich athletes and we refer to people who call female candidates by a crude slang term reserved for women's genitalia as good citizens exercising their 'right to freedom of speech'. 

Every day we reveal ourselves to be ignorant and cruel when it comes to our inability to have a civil discussion about politics or religion.  Yet let anyone utter even the smallest condemnation of behavior by someone deemed untouchable by today's society and the backlash will be swift and unforgiving.  I was told I should move to Russia because I suggested we need to establish boundaries and basics for good interaction - in other words, stop using foul language when discussing a candidate.  I was told that I did not have a right to establish boundaries or hold to standards, that to do so infringed upon a person's right to freedom of speech.  I responded by suggesting that standards and boundaries are set all the time to restrict our freedom of speech and these standards and boundaries might be tested but they are there. The lady exploded on me.  She offered to purchase my ticket to Russia.

This morning I read a post where a convert to Catholicism (and a fairly new one at that) declared that a priest holding an opposing political view had obviously looked at the 'state of his own soul and discovered his 'sin'.  Why?  The priest  had stopped posting anything on his site that supported the 'other' Candidate.

Shame on us.

I have sent in an 'interest' request to the American Solidarity Party.  They do not have a snowball's chance in hell to succeed.  However, it has dawned on me lately that it doesn't matter if they win or lose.  You see, I am a Catholic.  I know that my side wins in the end.

But until then, by golly, it just might be interesting.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Freedom and Happiness

1740 Threats to freedom. The exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything. It is false to maintain that man, "the subject of this freedom," is "an individual who is fully self-sufficient and whose finality is the satisfaction of his own interests in the enjoyment of earthly goods." Moreover, the economic, social, political, and cultural conditions that are needed for a just exercise of freedom are too often disregarded or violated. Such situations of blindness and injustice injure the moral life and involve the strong as well as the weak in the temptation to sin against charity. By deviating from the moral law man violates his own freedom, becomes imprisoned within himself, disrupts neighborly fellowship, and rebels against divine truth.

Sometimes, without realizing it, I end up in an argument with someone who isn't even pesent.  The back and forth between us always feels very real.  It can bring me to tears.  It can cause me to toss and turn instead of sleep.  I can always tell how spiritually connected I am by how long the argument lasts.

To my similarly afflicted and like-minded friends these bouts are familiar.  We all experience them.  Some call it 'The Committee Meeting in my Head' and the best advice I ever received from someone who has been done this longer than me was this:  when the committee meets, volunteer to take the notes.

What I note is that the heart of all of these little mental jaunts is filled with self-pity.  That is why I can go ahead and let the committee meet or the argument finish without having to worry about whether or not I am about to drink.  I am not going to drink.  I might screw up some other way but I can guarantee you I am not going to drink.

Much of what causes me problems today is my deviation from moral law. It is my trying to decide for myself what is right and what is wrong.  That seems to stem from the need to be in charge of life, to determine for myself what I really need. Of course, what I mix up is the 'want' with the 'need'.  What I want may be what I need...but often enough, what I want is just that - what I want and it has nothing to do with what will be good for me.

My spiritual journey is a constant surrender of my will to His Will. It has also been a constant deliberate decision to learn as much as I can so that when the meetings start, the arguments begin with people not there, I can wind my way back to reality.  Reality is, for me, Jesus Christ and The Church HE founded.

I read on FB recently a statement by a nominal Protestant Christian that they had been taught that the God of the Old Testament no longer was valid because Jesus had brought nothing but Love to the world.  I felt so sorry for the person.  What a horrid way to grow up!  I now understand my former friend Patty who used to call herself a recovering Calvinist.  I cannot imagine what it is like to grow up thinking that God USED to be one way and now He is another way.  It makes sense that, if this is how WASPs grew up, our country is so far down the rabbit hole. Having an inconsistent God means never really being able to count on Him....and why so many of the little darlings take a few hits off of a marijuana pipe and decide to either follow some guy who SAYS he is God or discard God all together.

Being able to read The Old Testament (or as I like to call it, Act 1) through the eyes of Faith allows one to see both the historical, the poetic, the allegorical and the interactions of nations as a heralding of what is to come.  It gives me insight into the way the ancient writers thought and how they related to the world around them.  Because Catholics do not discard the body as unimportant like the Gnostic Christians do, our understanding of the sensual is much deeper.  We feel the pain of war, we understand how suffering can affect us at every level and we appreciate that Love is not a ticket to doing what ever you want...we are, ultimately, okay with being told no you cannot do that because we are taught a real and awesome definition of freedom.

  The Old Testament illuminates the New Testament, the New Testament is revealed in the Old Testament.  One does not discard one for the other.  God is not one type of God for pre-Christians and another type of God for those who become Christians.  God is One....a Triune God to be sure but He is One.  He is who is...Old Testament or not.