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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Catholics and Politics


The Catholics in the Pews are currently subjected to badgering from two extremes:  The Republican Rite Catholics who see all things other than Republican as bad and the Progressive Rite Catholics who see all things Trump as bad.  The Republican Rite Catholics are fractured by the group within its ranks that defend President Trump no matter WHAT comes out of his mouth and begin all sentences doing so with a variation of 'But Obama was worse".   The Progressive Rite Catholics speak in the same kind of extremes, make huge leaps in logic and will ignore the Catechism if it suits them, wave it as a banner if it supports them.

This is, of course, my opinion and my own rhetoric reflects my emotions around politics today.  Those emotions can be summed up like this:

1. I believe the Left and the Right are basically the same in their embracing of intolerance.
2. Sean Hannity and Chris Matthews are robots with interchangeable heads.
3. Everyone except Armstrong and Getty (radio hosts in California) make me tired.

The party I to which I belong is the American Solidarity Party.  I joined it during the last Presidential Election Cycle because I could not bring myself to vote for Mrs. Clinton and I was horrified that Mr. Trump was the Republican candidate.  I was not going to vote for anyone for the first time since I was 18 years old and that made me sick to my stomach.  I found the American Solidarity Party and, while I knew people would accuse me of 'throwing away my vote" I felt it was important - at age 61 - to vote in a manner that would allow me to stand in front of Jesus Christ at the end of my life and say, "Lord, I tried my very best to be a Catholic Out Loud and a good citizen of the United States."

The funniest part of all this is that, before the election, supporters of Hilary Clinton told me I was guaranteeing her win as President and the supporters of Donald Trump would snidely ask me questions such as, "So you WANT the Culture of Death to win?".  After the election, those SAME people both told me that my actions had single-handedly insured Mr. Trump winning the White House and the End of Civilization As We Know It (depending upon which party they claimed membership in, of course).  It was then that I realized that the Left/Right movement was a movement that was seriously crazy, full of illogical suppositions and assertions and that my team has a better chance of winning the next Superbowl than I have of having a rational discussion with any of these yahoos.

The American Solidarity Party is not perfect.  We do not have a perfect platform and I do not agree with EVERYTHING in it but it is closest to my ideals and my beliefs than either of the established political parties.

In light of the latest political storm over DACA, I wish to offer the official Statement of the American Solidarity Party for your consideration.

This statement is:

 The American Solidarity Party calls on President Trump and Congress to work diligently and quickly to pass legislation guaranteeing a path to United States citizenship for eligible “Dreamers” – immigrants who were brought to this country illegally as children.

Called ‘Dreamers’, these are students, lawyers, non-profit pioneers, human resource directors, police officers, teachers, parents, and firefighters. They are our neighbors and our friends. They arrived as children, pursued an education, pursued careers, bonded with their communities, had relationships, and many had children. These are the more than 790,000 individuals who have sought to remain in the United States through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly referred to as DACA. Now, as President Trump announces that he will repeal DACA, their futures are uncertain and terrifying. Many face job loss and deportation to countries that most cannot remember, countries where they may not speak the language, and countries that are overrun by violence. They face leaving behind their homes, their families, their children, all that they have worked for; the very American dream they learned about side by side with their peers in American public schools. They face punishment for a crime they did not commit, and that they had no control over.
Justice demands that Congress finally take action on House and Senate bills introduced early this year, in order to guarantee a path to citizenship for our neighbors and members of our communities. These bills having been sitting in both houses on Congress with little to no action, despite months of threats to the DACA program.
Human dignity likewise demands that President Trump not endanger nearly a million hard-working and dedicated individuals whose only goals are to become American citizens and to realize their full potential in the country in which they were raised, a country they love. By passing the responsibility to Congress, he fails the very real human beings whose individual stories inspire those around them.
Finally, the American Solidarity Party calls on all citizens to contact their Congressional representatives. Be the voice for your neighbors and friends who cannot speak on their own behalf. Make it clear that this is a dream that can no longer be deferred. The time for action is now. Action from the President, action from Congress, and action from every citizen.

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Not everyone is going to agree with this statement.  That is fine.  However, I happen to believe that we need to enact legislation that allows these people a path to citizenship that will benefit our country and benefit them.  Not all people are cut out for military service.  Not all people are meant to be teachers or doctors.  However, those who are willing to work and to serve as a way to establish their want/need to remain in this country need to be able to do so without fear especially if they were brought here as children without any say in the matter.

Get it together, Congress.
 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Human Dignity

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 1931:  Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that "everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as 'another self,' above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity."37 No legislation could by itself do away with the fears, prejudices, and attitudes of pride and selfishness which obstruct the establishment of truly fraternal societies. Such behavior will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a "neighbor," a brother.

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Current events have been centered around Confederate Statues in the United States.  Sides are once again drawn.  On the one are those people who see these monuments as honoring a system of government that enslaved and exploited people based on their skin color.  On the other is a weird mixture of people; some state removing these statues is trying to erase history, others claim the statues are there to honor the heroism of those men and women who died trying the defend the Confederacy of the United States and others are unabashedly members of the Klu Klux Klan or other White Supremacy Groups. 

I have read tons of posts online about this current fight.  I have read posts from friends of mine who are of African descent, from friends who have deep Southern and Confederate roots, who are Catholics on the Left and Catholics on the Right.  I have listened to the President of the United States stumble big time when he had a chance to totally reject the political ambitions of people like David Duke because he could not seem to properly express the sentiment that White Supremacy AND the thugs showing up in black shirts with ax handles claiming to be members of AntiFa are demonstrating anti-American ideals.  Once again we have been unable to be reasonable about the whole issue.  Once again we cannot seem to ask a question like this:
"Can we remove objects glorifying people who committed treason while preserving an important part of our history?  Can we do it so people do not forget that not so long ago we thought it was perfectly okay to buy and sell people who have skin a different color than our own?".

I do not understand why it is so difficult to teach the truth of history, why we have to pick a side and make one group bad and another good.  The reality of the slave trade out of Africa is ugly and dark and messy - let's tell the story.  Let's tell the truth.  Let's talk about African Tribal leaders selling members of tribes they had conquered to the Dutch and the Portuguese.  Let's talk about how people in power - White, Black, Catholic, Protestant - misused their power and hurt people.  Why do we shy away from this?  Why can't we, in the words of my late Texan born father, tell the truth and shame the devil?  No side is clean - no race, no religion, no tribe - when it comes to the Slave Trade.  Certainly the United States cannot pretend it never happened and certainly it is not unreasonable to question whether it is appropriate that statues erected to honor men who lead an armed revolt against the government in order to preserve a system of slavery should be allowed to remain in the public square?

I think this is difficult to talk about and discuss for one reason:

I think it is because we cannot explain slavery in this country unless we talk about God.

We can talk about wars and economics and the imposition of power but as we drill down deeper what cannot be ignored that slavery is a sin...and sin does not exist in the absence of God.

Slavery exists because of sin.  Man is cruel to others, to animals and to himself because of sin.  If there was no sin, if Adam had refused his wife's request and stood firm for God we would not be battling today over pieces of granite.  We would not be calling each other horrific names.  We would not be begging the people of Planned Parenthood to help young girls brought into their abortion mill by their 'boyfriend' rather than just kill the baby and return the child to one of the many forms of slavery that exist today.

Those people who regularly demand to know what is wrong with the opposition miss the point.  Much of what divides us today is a result of our willingness to let concupiscence rule our lives.  We refuse to acknowledge there is a God and it is not us.  We refuse to worship God in the manner He requests of us, demanding our freedom to live and love and worship as we please.  We refuse to even believe there is a God.

And we wonder why people run cars into crowds over a statue.

Some of you think this is a simplistic argument.  You point to all the piles of research done by sociologists and psychologist to prove that the reason we are at each other's throats is the result of a much deeper issue than a refusal to love God.

Others will state I am delusional because there is not God to worship and love.

What I know today is that Right and Wrong would not be so difficult to determine if we used our eyes in the manner the Church teaches us: we need to see our neighbor as an 'other self'.  We need to acknowledge that every human being, from the moment of its conception to its natural death, is worthy of dignity and respect simply by virtue of BEING a human. 

When I take the time to look at you, really look at you, in order to see myself I won't need to attack you on social media or call you names because you have a different idea from my own.  I am able to actually stop, think, consider and respond.  I can participate in a dialogue.  I can learn.  I can grow.

I take the time to see you as an 'other self' because God teaches me, through His Church, to do just that ....without Him I can't seem to make the right decision.  Quite frankly, I have yet to meet anyone who can...though I have met a lot of people who THINK they are functioning quite well without God.

They are wrong.



Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Expressions

Bloggers are nothing if not clever.  We turn a phrase with glee and really hope people 'get us' in a way that will bolster our own sense of hipness.  Many of us are frustrated stand up comics.  Some of us are actual writers. 

We all are trying to communicate something - our thoughts, our ideas, our experiences or our knowledge - and sometimes we are effective and other times we just make a bunch of you angry.

I am a frustrated writer and actress and performer.  I blew any chance I had at a career in the limelight (and winning those five Oscars - in a row) when I succumbed to the disease of alcoholism in my early 20's.  By the time I sobered up my opportunities in those areas had dried up and I found myself earning a respectable living as a civil servant.

This blog started as a way to share my faith journey with the world.  It has been a source of pride and a source of pain.  I have made friends, angered family members, lost buddies and become the target for small time politicians trying to (first) woo me and then bring me down.

Through it all I have grown considerably in my Faith and in how I handled/accept adversity.  I hope I have matured.  I hope I am no longer hurting my family and I hope my friends are here to stay; however, I have learned not to depend upon either for my self esteem or my security.  My hope and trust is in The Lord and in The Church He founded.  Everyone else pays cash.

The way I express myself has also changed.  I am far from perfect and have been known to turn the air blue when the present QB for my team 'fumbles' the ball by flipping DROPPING it for no reason (before God and everyone watching).  The occasional inappropriate word will fall from my lips if I stub my toe.  No, in terms of language I am far from being saintly and angelic - but I have improved a lot over the years and I am grateful for that, believe me.

If there is anything social media has revealed is that the art of conversation and the art of argument have been close to eradicated from our society today.  People cannot seem to tell you they are upset or lonely or disagree with you without using the 'f' word or declaring an opinion with which they disagree as 'b*llsh&t' .  If one objects they make light of it and blame you for daring to suggest that their inability to make their point without swearing somehow reflects on YOUR lacking something - usually a part of the male genitalia that even women want to have in order to prove how tough they are in the world.

Recently I contributed to a conversational thread started by a well known Catholic Blogger.  He helped coin the cute phrase "Republican Rite Catholic". ( Not to be outdone, I have started using the phrase "Progressive Rite Catholic".  No one is going to out cute me, by golly. ),  I was not disagreeing with the original poster, merely adding my thoughts.  One of his followers, a young aggressive man who sees himself as the Savior of All Things Progressively Catholic, declared something I shared as 'bullsh&t'.

I responded with the appropriate snarky comment about men swearing at women, how he had me quaking in my boots, blocked him from the list of 'friends' I have on that platform and have gone on my merry way.

Be pithy, be funny, be bland but intelligent - I don't care if you disagree with me or not but if you start swearing at me the conversation is over.  You will find yourself placed outside my social circle.  If you want to play in MY sandbox you will play by polite rules and display good manners.  If you cannot do that, then you don't get invited back until you demonstrate your ability to carry on a conversation without sounding like you have been eating take out during the Siege of Jerusalem.

All my early years I was subjected to the bombastic voice of a not-so-good father.  The bad language, the thundering declaration that I (his daughter) was 'full of s&Ht' if I dared to question something he said gave me scars.  I am now a 61 year old sober woman of grace and dignity and I will NOT be treated in that manner anymore....more than once.

If you are happy speaking the language of the streets, that's fine.  If that allows you to feel powerful when you speak, ok.  I am not demanding you change.  I am simply letting you know what I will allow in my world.  If you don't want to be in my world, then fine.  That is up to you - you can leave quietly by the front door and know that my good wishes and prayers go with you.

Maya Angelou once stated that the manner in which someone talks within a home can permeate the walls and contribute to the type of aura or energy in the building.   Maybe.  Maybe not.  What I know is I am happier now that I am trying my best to be gentler in my speech.  It can be tough - like I said, I hate sloppy football - but the rewards are so great.  I just want to keep going.....because maybe, if I keep trying, someday I can be a lady.

And that would be such a huge accomplishment for this girl.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

How to Win Friends, Influence People and still Love Jesus

I don't suffer well.  I rarely suffer alone.  Suffering in silence for someone like me is virtually unheard of but that is what has been happening for over a month now.

The silence is deafening and ABOUT TO END.

I love Jesus Christ.  I accept Him as my personal Lord and my Savior.  More importantly, I accept the teachings of the Church He founded.  I do not try to change anything to suit me.  As a result I have lost friends and family because I made the decision that what is in the Bible is the Truth - Jesus is Yahweh moving among us, He founded a Church and He gave that Church His Authority.  It is guided by the Holy Spirit.

I have weathered the sexual abuse scandals.  I have watched perfectly lovely people walk away from the Eucharist because the Church told them stuff they did not want to hear about how to live life and I have watched otherwise good Catholics twist themselves into moral pretzels to support political campaigns that fly in the face of Catholic Teaching.

The past two years have been an amazing technicolor dream show of Catholic infighting and name calling - the "I am a better Catholic than all of you because" wars have been hilarious and sad.  Through it all I have stood my ground and refused to jump on any one person's bandwagon.  I believe Jesus and He said The Church will withstand the onslaught of demons and political intrigue and people who are more Catholic than the Pope.

Credo.

Through it all my parish in the Central Valley has been an oasis of peace in many ways.  Oh look, we are not perfect.  We have goof balls and slackers and people who think they know everything here too just like any other group of humans.  However, I have been seriously in awe of the kind of love and support I have received here.  Outside of my 12 Step program I have never seen an organization like my Parish.  We are One.  We are Holy.  We are Catholic and we are Apostolic.

And then there is that one guy.......or gal.....

You know the one....This is the parishioner  who knows everything, can spot a liturgical abuse from 150 yards in the dark on a foggy night and answers any and all questions with a twenty page paper complete with  quotes and footnotes from obscure Vatican documents written by Popes in the 12th Century.   This is the woman who won't talk to someone who admits to be post-abortive because she is unsure if they have done proper penance.  This is the man who calls every woman, "dear" in that condescending tone that makes your skin craw.  It is the old lady who scowls at the woman holding a crying baby and the old man who freaks out a young girl wearing spaghetti straps in the summer while he wears Bermuda shorts with sandals and white socks to Sunday Mass.  It's the pursed lips and the shaking heads and the people who otherwise make it seem that being a Catholic means towing to the letter of the law rather than loving Jesus Christ and the Church He founded.

I am a Rules Girl.  I love knowing what to do and then doing it....and I love being able to poke fun at my love of rules and regulations.  I am a Liturgy Girl.  I love a well Sacrificed Mass with a beautiful Choir and perfect participation.  I will never be a Charismatic type waving my hands in the air and shouting out 'AMEN' when the priest says something during the homily I like - though an occasional, "damn straight, father" has been known to escape my lips at the wrong moment.

Because I am an Alcoholic in Recovery I know how dangerous it can be to become too caught up in the minutia.  We can never forget why we are sober in the first place.  If we do we are in danger of losing our sobriety.

I can see that kind of 'only the details matter' thinking causing the same kind of trouble for Faithful Catholics as well.  If I become so bound and determined to school my brothers and sisters in the Truth about how they are to walk, talk and breath I may miss the opportunity to show them how walking, talking and breathing a Catholic Sacramental Life is the best way to walk on this side of the veil. 

This does not mean I overlook abuses or agree to shortcuts.  I defend and explain the Faith when called to do so (often to other Catholics) but how I do it has changed dramatically over the past 20 years.  I think (hope) I am more effective today.  I think (hope) that when I talk people listen more.  I KNOW (for sure) that I no longer hear every question put to me about The Church as some sort of personal challenge.  If someone disagrees with me, they disagree with me.  If someone walks away from me, they walk away from me.  It is what it is and life goes on.

Damage I did years ago when trying to evangelize still haunts me.  I know I will never be able to repair that damage.  I pray that the Divine Physician do the repair and that someday I can stand in the pew with those I drove away by my own bad behavior.  Until then I accept that my time in Purgatory will be spent there because of this very damage I did and my hope lies in the mercy and forgiveness of God.

Maybe what I have learned can be summed up this way:  I have learned to love without making others hate.  Anyone who takes offense at me today is doing so because an honest error was made - either on my part or on their part - and not because I have purposefully made them feel attacked or uncomfortable in order to make my point.

Today I hope to pass on to the children of my parish the ability to be Catholic Out Loud.  I also hope we can begin to teach them that doing so means loving the unlovable, smiling in the face of insults and bearing pain with dignity.

I better be able to practice what I preach.


Friday, July 28, 2017

Spirituality and Religion - Two Sides of the Same Coin

It is common within the rooms of most 12 Step groups to hear the following pronouncement, "This is not about religion, this is about spirituality".  In fact, much of the argument against organized religion uses this foundation to launch their reasoning.  Religion, they state, divides people but truly spiritual people do not.

At the risk of being contrary, I don't agree with that assessment.

As an example, I always look to my particular order - the Order of Preachers, more commonly known throughout the world as The Dominicans.  Founded over 800 years ago by St Dominic de Guzman, this order reeks of a spirituality that flows specifically from the Catholic Church.  The 2oth century theologian Josef Pieper once suggested that one of our shining lights, St Thomas Aquinas, should be honored as St Thomas of Creation.  Why?  Simple.  Aquinas, while doing everything as a result of a total love for the Incarnate Savior Jesus Christ, never stopped drawing full theological implications from St Paul's words to the Romans: from the beginning, from the very moment of the creation of the world,  Gods invisible nature has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.

If one looks at legitimate Religious Teachings, one cannot help but note that the practice of Christianity in its fullness requires our total submission to and reverence for The Holy Trinity.  Our goal, as Catholics, is to draw as near to God as possible and we do this through our Liturgy and the reception of Sacraments.  If our agenda is to align our will with the Will of God, we are living a spiritual life. 

Perhaps the problem is that there has been a redefinition of 'spiritual' to mean only that which involves burning sage, holding séances, meditation on a mountain in the Himalayan Mountains and Ouija Boards.  I would argue that it is this co-opting of the word spiritual that has lead to society losing the essence of true spirituality. 

Just as I reject the idea of a 'good old days' based upon statistics that show less divorce, I reject the idea that being religious means one is not spiritual.  Can those two be mutually exclusive?  Of course.  Jesus warned us against those who pray for all to see or who make sure they are sitting in the front so everyone knows how much they are tithing.  However, I also can tell you that I have met Buddhists who are cruel to strangers and Native Americans who reject anyone who dares to develop a spiritual path that differs from that deemed right by their Tribal customs.  To me, what I see, is not the Religion that is at fault; rather, I see those who find it too difficult to practice it every day rejecting it as being at fault.

For many years I rejected my Faith Tradition because it was just not compatible with the lifestyle I was living.  I kept the lifestyle because society told me I had a right to do anything and everything I wanted - with my body, with my mind and with my language.   When that lifestyle exploded in my face, I crawled through the back doors of the 12 Step Fellowship I needed and discovered that in order to be successful in my recovery from the disease of alcoholism I would need to surrender my will to God.

WTH?

Today I work every day on that surrender.  My surrender involves the goal of totality: my heart, my mind, my passions...my will and my body...my fertility...my sexual identity.....my longing for companionship...my finances...my love for animals....my love for my family and for other people's children...all of me, good and bad.  Unless I am willing to at least make the effort to give myself in total to The Holy Trinity I am not living my Religion.  I am an empty gong.

I want to end with the words attributed to St Thomas Aquinas when he received Our Lord in The Eucharist for the last time:

"I now receive you who are the price of my souls redemption, I receive you who are the food for my final journey, and for the love of whom I have studied, kept vigil, and struggled; indeed, it was you, Jesus, that I preached and you that I taught."


I don't care what anyone says - That's SPIRITUAL.....


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For those who have a mind to pray, please pray for the repose of the soul of one of the greatest men I have ever had the privilege of knowing:  Don Brown.  A tireless worker in the 12 Step community, Don lost his life in a tragic car accident over the weekend.  Please keep his soul in prayer and please keep his family in prayer.  We lost a giant, but our loss is heaven's gain.