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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 you....is 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.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Trying to be a Good American (and Catholic) when I don't Agree with You

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

1951 Law is a rule of conduct enacted by competent authority for the sake of the common good. The moral law presupposes the rational order, established among creatures for their good and to serve their final end, by the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Creator. All law finds its first and ultimate truth in the eternal law. Law is declared and established by reason as a participation in the providence of the living God, Creator and Redeemer of all. "Such an ordinance of reason is what one calls law."

Alone among all animate beings, man can boast of having been counted worthy to receive a law from God: as an animal endowed with reason, capable of understanding and discernment, he is to govern his conduct by using his freedom and reason, in obedience to the One who has entrusted everything to him.

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This has been a tough couple of years in the United States.  The unrest and worry has been palpable.  The frenzied media has made heroes by making stuff up out of whole cloth, but at the same time we have had to address racial tensions and misuse of authority.   It has been a bumpy ride. The problem has not been helped by the element of violence against Police Officers carried out by people who claim it is in retribution for unlawful killing of Black men at the hands of Law Enforcement. 

Recently a well-known athlete chose to demonstrate his solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement by not standing during the National Anthem before a televised football game.  He did not violate employer policy as the NFL does not require its employees to stand during the National Anthem as a way of protecting possible religious beliefs (there are some sects of Christianity that do not take oaths or stand during the anthem or serve in the military).  His demonstration had actually been going on for sometime but oddly enough the very day he was scheduled to return to active player status somehow his stance (or lack thereof) was leaked to the press.

The outrage has been immediate and almost comical.  He has actually been 'accused' of converting to Islam, being un-American, called foul names, I mean it has been amazing.  His jersey has been burned, Facebook Memes have flooded the internet...it just goes on and on and on.

This kid did not make any obscene gestures.  He did not use foul language.  He stated that he has the utmost respect for Law Enforcement and the Military.  He did not grab an assault rifle, hide in a building and start shooting at police.  He sat down.

I am often accused of being too lenient when it comes to people I love but this is not a similar case.  I don't love this guy.  I barely know him.  For all I know he is converting to Islam.  I don't really care other than I wish he would throw the football better and learn how to properly read a defense.

Here is what I care about:  I care that we as a country not forget that the reason men and women serve in the military is to preserve a freedom not always honored in the rest of the world.  That freedom is essentially a freedom of thought and expression.  If I believe that the intentional abortion of an unborn child is immoral, the fact that it is legal is immaterial.  I have the right to protest that law, to protest that action in a peaceful and non-violent manner.  I do not have the right to burn down an abortion mill or bomb a Planned Parenthood office.

If this young man believes there are injustices being perpetrated against people of color in this country and those injustices are not being properly addressed by  the powers that be OR by the country's own citizens then his is the right to take an action that would bring our attention to that issue.  He does not have the right to walk up to one of the cops on duty at the football game and punch them in the face as an act of protest.

Look, do I agree with his stance?  Kinda sorta.  I know there are problems in this country that must be addressed if we are going to move forward.  One of those problems is crime in our African American Community.  Another of those problems is racial prejudice, religious bigotry and the true war on women which is the perpetration of the lie that abortion on demand is somehow liberating.  We have a lot of problems - poverty, poor education, lack of opportunity and the fact that we have been in an almost constant state of war since our revolution of 1776.   We have a lot of wounds to heal.

I also believe this country, this America, is still the best game in town.  It is the fundamentals upon which we were founded that allow for a rich young athlete to stage a protest without being hauled off to a gulag somewhere to disappear.  It is the rights upheld in our US Constitution that make it possible to change laws and, eventually, hearts and minds so that we no longer legally sell human beings.  It is this country that stands against places that would shove people into ovens and it is the actual laws of this country that make it possible for me to attend Mass without being shot.

Do we have problems?  Oh you bet we have problems.  We are more concerned with what bathroom someone goes into than the fact that 12 year old girls are driven to Planned Parenthood by their 'boyfriends' for artificial birth control and abortions.  We are more concerned with using correct language than we are about a crumbling infrastructure.  We care more about football than God.

I am going to be unpopular with a lot of people because I support this young man's right to do what he did without agreeing with everything he states.  People on both sides of this issue are going to be angry with me because I don't think he really gets it right AND I support his right to protest. 

However, I know what I think and I know what I mean.  I know what is important to me and I know why it is important.  I care more about people and their rights than I do the egg of a California Condor.

I have to - I'm a Catholic.

I hope you can accept me but if not....well.....

You are in my prayers.


PS:  please pray for the healing of Sister Pauline Quinn, OP. Sister Pauline established the program in prisons all over the world that unites inmates with shelter dogs.  The dogs are trained in basic obedience with an eye towards having them develop into Service Dogs for the disabled.  She has been diagnosed with cancer. 

St Peregrine, pray for her.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Holiness - The Struggle is Real

The Modern Catholic Dictionary defines Holiness in this way:

... among creatures they are holy by their relation to God. Holiness in creatures is either subjective or objective or both. It is subjective essentially by the possession of divine grace and morally by the practice of virtue. Objective holiness in creatures denotes their exclusive consecration to the service of God: priests by their ordination, religious by their vows, sacred places, vessels, and vestments by the blessing they receive and the sacred purpose for which they are reserved.

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I asked a question on Facebook the other day about holiness, essentially questioning my friends about what they think keeps them from achieving it.  The answers were surprisingly frank and can be summed up in a one word answer:  ME!  Almost everyone who answered gave a variation on this theme:  if I am being kept from holiness I have no one but myself to blame.

That gives me hope.  It gives me hope because it shows that the majority of the people I have in my life today look to themselves first before they start blaming or pointing fingers.  Oh look, we're far from perfect.  There is still the occasional member of the Piety Police who has no trouble pointing to the splinter in their neighbor's eye or cannot resist telling us that, while they have taken responsibility for their actions it sure would be nice if the ex-husband or the adult child or that pesky neighbor would follow their example.  I myself have been a card-carrying member of that group and it took me a long time to be able to make an amends to someone that did not sound like "I am really, really sorry YOU made ME act like a jerk".

I know that my biggest character defect is my wish to be loved.  This is different from the traditional people-pleasing claim made by some (mostly new) members of the 12 step meetings I attend.  I want to be loved, but I want to be able to live my life the way I want to live it.  I don't want to have to go out of my way to actually DO something you might find pleasing, I just want you to be pleased with me. 

This character defect has thwarted my serenity and caused me more personal pain than any other sin I have committed.  The error of taking my eyes off the prize - off of Salvation - has resulted in loneliness, sleepless nights, anger and feelings of rejection.  It has caused me to lash out when I think I have been wronged and has made me regret my past.  The fear that I will be forgotten or unloved has been the root of most of my troubles.

This struggle to turn over an aspect of my personality that causes me so much pain is probably that which keeps me closest to God.  I am fully aware of my inability to be in close communion with my Creator because of  my need for the praise and love of creatures.  I also know that by acknowledging that struggle I am declaring victory for the Creator when it comes to my life.

I want to be in full communion with God and, therefore, fully human.  I want my will and my life to be something He uses only for His glory and the salvation of souls.  The fact that I also want my neighbors to think I am the friendliest woman on the block or my co-workers to see me as a paragon of virtue reminds me that I have not yet achieved my goal.  It keeps me going, makes me yearn and motivates me to do things I wouldn't otherwise think are important.  I wouldn't partake frequently of the Sacraments.  I wouldn't need them.  I would just 'be saved' and so fine just on my own.

'Just on my own' is a dangerous place to be for someone like me.

The struggle for holiness is a daily struggle.  It involves the whole of the human - body, mind and spirit - and must be something tangible in order for it to be fruitful.  I suspect that every day I tackle the task of being the best Me I can be is another chance for me to draw closer to my Creator.

I believe that the day I decide I no longer have to work at being a good Catholic is the day the gulf between me and God will widen enough to allow me to start inching away from His Church.  And if I do that, I run the risk of being one of those people calling, 'Lord, Lord' at the end of time and not being recognized.  I don't want that to happen.

The struggle for holiness for this girl is real.  It makes her life worthwhile.