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Thursday, June 23, 2016

How to Reach Me

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

1938 There exist also sinful inequalities that affect millions of men and women. These are in open contradiction of the Gospel:
Their equal dignity as persons demands that we strive for fairer and more humane conditions. Excessive economic and social disparity between individuals and peoples of the one human race is a source of scandal and militates against social justice, equity, human dignity, as well as social and international peace.
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I have been pondering and praying about the need for evangelization, in particular the need to reach those women who, like me, are of a 'certain age' and alone in the world.  While my status is not particular to females - there are plenty of men my age who are all alone - we often find ourselves in a different position than our brothers in Christ in that we are less financially secure.  Our pay for our work has been less than that offered to men simply by virtue of being women.  We have had a tougher time purchasing our own homes, paying for our own medical care, even paying into our own Social Security and so we have to take into consideration how we are going to put food on the table and whether or not that table is going to be inside a building or under the freeway overpass.

Of course men also have to plan for their financial future and of course men can find themselves all alone in a trailer park someday unable to purchase much more than cat food for their own dinner.  Poverty is not gender specific.  However, it is true that women are 35% more likely to find themselves living in poverty than men because of the gender wage gap. 

I myself have made specific decisions based on how I will be able to pay my bills.  I have sacrificed some things - not much, but some - added to my educational skills, looked at where I will live and put in place different safety nets designed to help me when I am 85 years old and need someone to help me put up the Christmas decorations.  Without meaning to sound flippant, I do not do certain things today because I am planning for a life as a single, elderly woman in America.  I do not have children.  I cannot take for granted that someone will be available to drive me to the grocery store, to the bank or to Mass in the same way my mother can because she has me and my brother.

One of the reasons I can face this future is because I have deepened my relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church.  I trust in Him.  I firmly believe that whatever comes down the pike, I will be able to handle it because of His Grace I receive through the Sacramental Life of The Catholic Church.  Also, I have great hopes that Amazon will expand their food service to my area of California and I won't HAVE to be driven to the grocery store.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

I have been blessed.  My alcoholism forced me to confront the spiritual void in my life and my own intelligence and reading of history made it impossible for me to accept anything less than the Church Jesus founded.  However I also accept that I am one of those dirty little secrets in the pews - a woman of a certain age who will never hold her own grandchild and has no one but herself to blame for her state in life.  I made a choice in the name of freedom that cost me a large chunk of my own peace of mind.  I have been forgiven for that choice.  I have received absolution but the repercussions are still being felt and will be felt until I lie beneath the ground.  I have done the work necessary to be recognized at the end of time by Jesus and I will continue to do that work, driven by my love for Him and His for me, but what I am is a result of the sinful life I lived and that cannot be changed.

I am not alone.

How we Catholics reach out to women like me, in my position (or worse), is important.  What strategy we come up with to evangelize this group must reflect the realities of our life in America today.  Women matter, our lives and our experiences matter, but we cannot simply aim the beauty of the Catholic Church at married women.  It is imperative that we, as a Church, find a way to support and encourage and welcome those prodigal daughters who are home but still alone. 

I am interested in this topic, not only because it is one that affects me but also because I see the growing demographic of single women in The Church.  The secular world thinks the way to address it is to extend the impossible - let's ordain women! - but I know that we have to be willing to go deeper.  We have to plunge into the ocean of Mercy that is the Love of Jesus and His Church.  We must  surround these women with the message that their participation in the life of The Church cannot be equaled or forgotten or overlooked.

I am needed.  I matter.

So how do we do this?

Any ideas?



Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Famous Catholics and How They Help Me

How many people know that Brett Farve, Howie Long and Dominique Dawes all share the same Faith?

For many of us, what our sports hero believes when it comes to God rarely matters unless he or she does something awful.  If we find out that Catholic Tom Brady has had a child out of wedlock, we can all laugh at him when he later professes a recommitment to his Faith and The Church.  If we discover that a baseball player on a World Series team won't head out of the dugout until he has fulfilled his Sunday Obligation to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we might shrug.  When he gets ejected from the game for going after the pitcher and causes a bench clearing brawl, we can nod our heads and chuckle about what a hypocrite he is, thereby feeling oh so much better about ourselves.

Me, my reaction is different.  What I know when I hear that Kobe Bryant is a Catholic or that Jim Thorpe honored both his Native American roots and stayed a Faithful Catholic throughout his life, what I know is these are men who recognized their own limitations despite their incredible talent.  When I hear that Mike Piazza is a Catholic, I know that his relationship with Jesus Christ is so much more than a simple "Jesus and me" relationship; rather, it is one that encompasses the familial relationship of human with Holy Trinity that was designed by God.

Never once do I think, "Oh look, a perfect human!".

One of the strongest points of being a Catholic is the recognition of our need for Mercy and forgiveness.  It is acknowledging that we struggle every day with the simple command of "Love one another".   I know is how difficult that is for me. I don't WANT to love everyone because quite frankly I don't LIKE everyone  (And yes, I understand I am not required to like those I am required to love, but it would make the who thing a lot easier for me).   As difficult as following that command is for me, I cannot imagine what it must be like for someone in the spotlight of American Hero Worship Culture - that culture that hangs breathlessly on every word and waits anxiously for the Hero to fail, seeming to take such delight in their errors and problems.

I know I cannot love without the power of the grace I receive from Jesus Christ.  I also know that the wonderful way to receive that grace is through the power of The Sacraments.  The life giving power of God comes through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and so I avail myself of those Sacraments as often as possible.

When I find out that someone famous is a practicing Catholic, what I hear is the same message:  here is a person who has recognized their marching orders, have their assignment from Jesus and knows they cannot do it on their own. 

They are just like me - only much more talented and a whole lot richer.

So thank you, Pat Riley and Jim Caviezel.  Thanks, John Stockton and Bobby Allison.  Thank you for acknowledging that we are in the same family - and that we have the same way of looking at this struggle to live a good and holy life.

You are in my prayers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Response to Evil

The Catholic Church teaches:

 The fact that God permits physical and even moral evil is a mystery that God illuminates by his Son Jesus Christ who died and rose to vanquish evil. Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit an evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil, by ways that we shall fully know only in eternal life.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 324).

Suffice to say much of what the Church teaches must be accepted on Faith.  I know that my journey Home involved my realizing that if the Church is right about some of the really obvious and important stuff, then I should be willing to accept that she is right about stuff I don't quite understand.  In other words, Jesus was either lying or telling the Truth when He said that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church He founded.  Jesus is God.  God cannot lie.  It is logical to believe, therefore, that the Church cannot be overcome by the forces of hell, though it is also pretty evident that in her 2thousand year history hell has given her a run for her money.

I accept, therefore, that God does not cause evil but allows evil - both physical and moral - and that from that evil will come great good.  I accept it and I believe it...but I would be telling you a lie if I told you that it is an easy teaching.

The events I Orlando are just more of what makes this teaching so difficult.  In a short period of time I have watched high school students in Colorado kill their teachers and fellow students, men who have hijacked their own religion fly planes into buildings, madmen shoot up movie theaters and elementary schools and young women whose only 'crime' was to get drunk at a party be ravaged by equally young men - some of whom were supposedly friends of their victims.  I've cried when pedophiles have been paraded in front of the television cameras on their 'perp walks' and watched in horror as Christians were beheaded in the name of God.  I've seen incredible acts of heroism by men and women in uniform and I have been horrified by those in authority abusing the power we give them in order to protect us from harm. 

I have seen a lot, though I would not pretend to have seen it all.

Yes, it is a hard teaching.  It is a teaching that boggles the mind and is often rejected by those who despise His Church and my religion.  I am called a fool to cling to it - yet, cling to it I must.

To believe that God can pull great good from the physical and moral evil that is in the world does not excuse the evildoer.  Nor does it mean that those of us who accept this hard teaching are na├»ve bubble heads who think the world is full of unicorns and pastel rainbows.  Trust me, we are struggling with the same thing other people struggle with when it comes to a horror like Orlando.  We struggle with the shock, with the disbelief, with our own anger and our own knee jerk want for revenge.  I am having a hard time praying for this perpetrator.  I am having a difficult time with people who think I am not being a supporter of the US Constitution because I dare to voice my belief that a man questioned twice by the FBI because of his out loud admiration for ISIL and the Boston Marathon Bombers should not have been able to legally obtain an AR15 assault rifle. 

I am angry at his ex-wife who endured physical abuse from this man and yet never left a trail that shows he is an abuser of women, which might have shown up and somehow prevented this nut job from obtaining that weapon.

Yet, through it all is my belief that some sort of great good is going to come from this and I strain to look for it now.  I see glimpses.  I see it in the young Iman who declared on Television that this man was not the face of Islam.  I see it in the post by the Muslim American giving blood for the victims. 

My hope is that this is the last attack we face on American soil.  My hope is that more and more people will rise up and throw out those who would attack us before that next attack can occur.

My hope is that the great good that comes from this evil will be the unification of my country so that those who hate us will slink away, vanquished and banished to outer darkness.

Meanwhile, I will pray.  I will pray for the souls of the dead and the healing of those that will be scarred and bruised and broken for a long time.  I pray for the family of the perpetrator and the families burying their dead.  Most of all I pray for my country, that this not tear us further apart.

Let's be one nation, under God, and pledge to live our lived in Liberty and Justice for all.



Monday, June 13, 2016

My Heart Will Heal

Once again I find myself heart broken over events of such shock and brutality it is difficult for this pampered suburban American girl to wrap her head around them.  It is horrible, the mass murder of 50 plus young people in Orlando, Florida by someone who has so misconstrued the Face of The Father as to believe that this type of action is something that pleases Him.  I don't know what to write.  Anything I say sounds trite and ridiculous.  The debates that start to rage around gun control, Islamic Fascism, Homosexual Life as a result of this horrific occurrence give me a headache and bring more tears to my eyes.

Why, O Lord, Why have You forsaken us?

I know we are a sinful people.  I know we have walked too far from you, deepening rather than healing the rift that keeps us from communion with the Lord.  I know we shame ourselves by our behavior and our refusal to acknowledge that it is You who is the Author of all Life, that holds the Universe in steady Hands.

I also know that this act of murder is not something You willed; rather, it is an evil You allowed to happen and from it You will pull great good...but right now I cannot see it, I cannot fathom it and all I can do is Trust that somewhere in this pile of blood and guts there is a good...a good You can draw out...

Please pray for the families.  I cannot imagine their pain. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Sexual Assault - How to Respond?

2356 Rape is the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person. It does injury to justice and charity. Rape deeply wounds the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity to which every person has a right. It causes grave damage that can mark the victim for life. It is always an intrinsically evil act. Graver still is the rape of children committed by parents (incest) or those responsible for the education of the children entrusted to them.

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The definition of Rape in the Catechism of the Catholic Church encompasses the Catholic understanding of both Justice and the inherent Dignity of the Human Person.  While it is common today to dismiss Church Teaching in this area due to the horrific Sex Abuse Scandal,  it is always important to point out that the failure of the people within an institution to live the Teachings of Jesus' Church does not negate those Teachings; rather, it points out our tendency to sin and underscores our need for the Sacramental Graces provided by the same Church.

I believe one of the most difficult aspects of any discussion of the horror of sexual assault is talking about prevention of, or defense against, the assault itself.  One finds oneself right smack in the middle of political emotion.  The idea that no one, and I mean NO ONE, has the right to commit a criminal act against anyone - man, woman, child or animal - has to be sacrosanct.  The fact that us humans might have some sort of responsibility for our own safety and protection does not mean we are responsible for any criminal attack perpetrated against us.  Therefore, when discussing the problems being faced on College Campuses, one must be very careful to not send the message that anyone who is a victim of such a grievous crime is responsible for that crime. 

This is especially true if the person is impaired in some way.  A drunk or stoned man or woman cannot give consent for sex.  If you decide to have sex with a man or woman who is drunk or loaded, you have committed a crime.  If you are also drunk or loaded then the situation becomes even hazier.

If you, as a man, decide that the half-conscious woman (or man) in your car should be taken to your dorm room so that you and all your buddies can assault her (or him)  and take pictures of it to put on the internet I do not want to hear you tell Dr. Phil (during your sensational jail house interview) that you are really a nice guy.  I don't care if you go to Church and are Born Again the Evangelical Baptist way or that you were an Altar Boy in grammar school.   You are a criminal.  You are disgusting in your practice of sex and you deserve to spend a long time incarcerated.  I hope you do find Jesus.  I hope you do find His Church and repent.  I will pray for you.....but I want you to spend time in prison.  You deserve it.

All that being said,  if I was a parent of a teenage girl today I would urge her to never, never, NEVER, go to a large party and ingest alcohol.  I would caution her on what she wears, how she talks, the language she uses and to never separate herself from her friends.  I would tell her to she would be better off spending Saturday nights alone than attend a street party at her college.   I would share my graphic story of assault with her.  And I would let every young man who interacts with her in my line of vision that, while I am a Faithful Catholic, I would be willing to do time in prison myself to protect or avenge the honor of any child of mine who is violated. 

In theory, I should be able to walk buck naked down 9th Street in Modesto and do so with impunity.  I should be able to go to a bar and drink myself silly and get in a cab and go home unmolested.  I should be able to use any kind of language I want when expressing myself without some yahoo deciding that I am signaling my available for a free-wheeling sexual encounter with a stranger or group of strangers.

In reality, that is not how the world works and while I applaud the arrest and prosecution of anyone who assaults someone and uses the excuse of 'but look what she/he was wearing' as their defense I am not going to take any more chances with my safety.  I am not going to live my life on the edge anymore.

In my opinion, to vilify anyone for telling women on college campuses to not get drunk at parties in order to avoid being attacked is  an example of how good sense is discarded for political correctness.  It is also my opinion that looking at a group of boys OR girls who join in and attack someone as being anything less than animalistic in their behavior is also discarding good sense for political correctness.  If your boy stands in line to have sex with a girl in a bathroom, your boy is a rapist and should be kept away from other vulnerable people.  If your daughter takes pictures of, or joins in with an attack on a single person there is something horrible about her and she needs to be punished and kept separate from others she may harm.

Speaking out and asking people to watch their own behavior is really no different than encouraging people to lock their doors.  I do not think criminals have a right to commit crimes.  I am going to do whatever is necessary to keep myself safe.  I will modify my behavior, I will learn to protect myself, I will pray and I will trust God.

I suggest we teach our children to do the same.