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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Millies - Catholic Style

In the October 2015 issue of Vanity Fair magazine, James Wolcott offers us his ideas/feelings/wishes for that group of people known as 'Millenials'.  In his usual witty and snobbish style, Mr. Wolcott quotes various bloggers and other magazine writers (Derek Thompson of The Atlantic,  Duncan Black at Eschaton) and provides an opinion that seems to offer both hope and despair.

'Millies' (as he calls them) are those people born between 1982 and 2004.  These kids, the oldest of whom are 33, have earned a rather sour reputation.  They are described,  by such an expert as Christopher Ingraham (Washington Post) thus:

  • the most unpatriotic generation ever produced
  • are as racist as any other generation, despite their multi-cultural airs and embrace of all things rainbow
  • the most clueless - the 'duh' generation - when it comes to the news
  • the leading vaccine skeptics and most likely to believe there is a link between vaccines and autism, no matter what the science proves
  • queasy about free speech, creating the need for 'trigger warnings' and the term 'micro-aggression' to describe anyone who dares to offer an alternative opinion.
To his credit, James Wolcott does not pretend to mix with people like me, the masses, the 'great unwashed' as Margaret Sanger and others of her class once referred to us.  In fact, in all honesty, Mr. Wolcott thinks people like me and my kind are rather stupid.  We hold certain ideas and values and philosophies despite the fact that we are university educated.  He would look at us and think, "if this is a result of what happens when you offer an education through the G.I. Bill, we must stop that immediately" because we - people like me - are the second generation of those who worked their way through college.  

Our kids - our sons and daughters, our nieces and nephews - are the ones who worked every summer at crap jobs so they could pay what the scholarships don't when they enrolled at the out of state college, because it is cheaper.

Our kids are the ones who joined the military because it gives them the chance to learn, to grow and because they are sheep dogs willing to guard the herd.

Our kids are the ones who join the Youth Group at Church, serve at Mass, pray the Rosary when captured by ISIS by ticking the number of prayers off on their fingers, and do so when they know some masked coward is going to cut off their head and post the pictures on the Internet.

Our kids are the ones who barricade a door to try to stop a gunman, show up on Tuesdays to take their grandmother shopping, know that PETA is a stupid organization because they read more than what is on Facebook and believe that United States is far from perfect but is still a good place to live.

In other words, Mr. Wolcott's experience is limited to those privileged creatives, the artists he meets and maybe the conclusions he has drawn cannot be applied to kids I know - the kids who grew up in towns like Modesto or Pleasant Hill, who go to college and do not expect their first job to pay them 50grand a year, who are willing to live in apartments for the first 10 years (and four children) of their marriages because sacrifice is okay - in fact, it might even be necessary.

I have my own opinion about people.   I think there are those in the world who are outright spoiled little brats who have to have their own way no matter what goes on.  I believe there are those who will resort to personal attacks and foul language because using critical thinking skills is just too darn hard.  However, and I mean this with all my heart, I see just as many of those people in MY generation as any other generation.  Jerks know no age restriction, in my experience, and to think that the Millies are the first ones to make themselves victims for no reason is to ignore history, including our own personal history.

Yes, I do believe he has a point in terms of some of the goofy ideas about free expression and opinions that this generation has adopted.  One must be very careful about having a differing idea about anything from same-sex marriage to Liturgical Worship lest one be labeled a 'hater'.  However, I think that is the fault of the world - we are so afraid today because there are those who get mad and then get even.  Because we are afraid, we try very hard to not offend.  We have passed that on to this generation and we are reaping the rewards of Political Correctness.

However, all in all, I think Mr. Wolcott and his fellow pundits have missed out on a lot of good stuff because they are so isolated.  They don't know the kids I know.  If they did, they might be surprised at how tough and willing to help these kids are today.

Like all opinions, mine is based on my experience.  I guess, if I was to be very honest, I can just say, "Thank you, God" for the kids I have met, for the ones in my life.

Mr. Wolcott would find them too boring for an article in Vanity Fair, but I am sure grateful they are in my life.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How Should We Respond?

In all honesty I believe there are certain types of people who take great pleasure in making someone else feel small.  I have my personal stereotype of them.  If they are a woman they are, most likely, a former Small Group Big Shot.  If they are a man, they spent their formative years sleeping with as many girls as they could in order to hide the fact that they lack the capacity to create a home of their own.

This stereotype is not fair - I know it.  I just can't help but think of those movies from the 1980's when people go back to their High School Reunion and the same mean people are still mean, only wearing different hair styles.

Social Media Sites offer the bullies a chance to continue to do what they started when they were in middle school - do their best to make someone else feel small.

I know, I one can 'make' you feel anything.  At least that is the mantra we chant in our Tuesday Self-Esteem Class down at the Women's Center.  We write that on Post-It Notes and put it on our refrigerators and we write it in lipstick on our bathroom mirrors.  We almost believe it, too.  Then one of these semi-professional human destroyers takes aim at us out of nowhere and subtweets about something they know is near and dear to our hearts and we feel a little sick to our stomach.  They have given us a cyber-punch for no reason and we suspect (and are probably right) that if we were to call them on it they would widen their eyes and say, "What do you mean?  I didn't mean YOU!", thereby shifting the responsibility for their childish and ridiculous behavior squarely onto our shoulders.  They make you doubt your own strong instincts.  Suddenly, not only are you hurt because you have been punched out of nowhere you are wrong for asking them about it.

So what do you do?

I know what I do...I get angry.  I also know what I want to do....I want to hurt them back.

Is that the right response?

Not for a Catholic, it isn't.

One of the most difficult character defects I fight is the one that tells me it is okay to punch back, to hurt as you have hurt me.  My experience has been that when I do that those people that widen their eyes and manage to look surprised when someone merely stands up to their bullying tactics now have a legitimate complaint.  They also have a chance to call me a hypocrite (though most of them have no idea what the correct use of that term is) because I have fallen short of the standards set by Jesus' Church.  "Ah HA!" they can exclaim, as they flip their hair.  "SEE!  I TOLD you she wasn't REALLY a Christian!".

Therefore, not only have I hurt myself by falling into their little sandbox I have inflicted harm on the Body of Christ, which is (of course) one of the characteristics of sin.  Sin does not just hurt the sinner.  Sin hurts us all.

My life so far has been one long learning curve and lest you think this is a lesson I have always known, let me say "Oh no, no, no".  Most of the time I have stepped right square into the fray only to wish I had just stood still, allowing the Self Satisfied Groovy People Parade pass me by without a flicker of recognition.  Nowadays I can usually just take the appropriate action (like hide or delete the post on social media) without responding.  Those days I respond before thinking it through, I can make good use of my OWN delete button.

Restraint of Tongue and Pen....a tougher principle to follow than you would believe.

I am saddened today when I see the jabs we take at each other on Social Media.  I am saddened even more when I engage in some sort of weirdly disconnected running battle with a former friend or someone I knew in high school.  I try really hard not to do that today, though at times I fall prey to my own need for perfect justice on this earth.  I have to stop, take a deep breath, remember that I am dealing with a wounded soul and then keep on going.

I can pray for them and for me.  I can ask The Holy Spirit to fill me with the Love that I need to love them in spite of myself.  I can beg God to remove from me those defects of character that stand between me and my chance to be useful in the world.  I can throw myself on the mercy of Jesus and admit, "I am a sinner.  Please help me to be kind where there is no kindness, patience where there is no patience and calm in the midst of a raging emotional tempest".

I always hope for the best.  I know how much I have grown in the past 20 years and I know how far I need to go in terms of being a good woman.  I am not there yet....I am a fairly okay woman.....but I have a long, long way to go before I can hit 'good'.

Pray for me - that I do not add to the mess.  Pray for me - that I be able to be the woman God wants me to be no matter what anyone's emails or messages me today.

Pray for me - as I pray for you.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Papa's Reminders - The Tough Part of Being Catholic

In January of 2014, Sarah Christmyer wrote:

"We can forgive others because God forgave us, and for the same reason it is our duty to forgive others."

I revisited her blog post over the weekend, not just because I have to forgive both the Arizona Cardinals for killing my Niners, or because I have to forgive the big dumb owner of my favorite football team for leaving us in such dire straits to face the upcoming game against the Packers.  Both of those things I must find in my heart to forgive and, as tough as it might be, I will forgive them.  Besides, hope springs eternal in the heart of the Forty-Niner Faithful.  The season ain't over until it's over, right?

No, I looked at her writings again ( because I wanted a refresher course.

I have what can be referred to as a pretty active "Forgetter".  I can forget the wrongs I have done others and focus only on what has been done 'to me',  This satisfying but unproductive (and sinful) behavior leads no where, unless left unchecked...then it can lead to hell.  And quite frankly, I spent most of my 20's and some of my 30's actively pursuing entrance into that state of being.  I do not want to go back to that, ever, and so am willing (after some false starts) to forgive that which is 'done to me'. 

I think the saddest part of having the "Active Forgetter" is the inability to remember what I have done to hurt others.  It makes it terribly possible to repeat the action, even though my intentions are not to hurt, and then surprise the heck out of me when someone is angry. 

I am often reminded by my Spiritual Director that this condition of mine, this Emotional Amnesia, is not restricted to me, or to adults or to Alcoholics in Recovery (that ofttimes regarded sacred class of person).  In fact, my Active Forgetter makes me a pretty normal human being.  I have never, in all honestly, met anyone who has not repeated hurtful things again and again and again.  I have, however, met lots of people who pretend they never do that, thereby firmly planting themselves in the Soil of Discontent and Anger.  They have not empathy, no realistic view of themselves.

Most of the people I meet like this are in my 12 Step Program.  It is often said as an aside that the worst person in the world to make a 9th step amends to is another sober drunk - they will dissect and examine everything you bring them and pronounce, from on high and for your own good, why what you have done is not right and they cannot accept it.  I have had this done to me and, I am ashamed to say, I have done it to others.  While I cannot speak to why it was done to me (for all I know I did not do it right and they really were concerned with my well being) I know that when I did it, it was because I did not feel the person speaking to me had a real grasp of how much their actions had hurt.  They did not seem sorry enough, by golly, so I was gonna 'help them'.

uh huh.  No...

Today, the Monday after Pope-A-Looza, I am reflecting on the idea of forgiveness.  I think about how difficult it has been for me to forgive the stuff done to me and I am reminded that those people who have decided to vilify Holy Mother Church (Ann Coulter) need to be forgiven rather than attacked.  And while I can still have some Monty Python type chuckles over the far right (Ann Coulter) leaping into bed with the far left (most people who think His Holiness 'sanctified oppression' and other such nonsense) in an effort to unite anti-Catholic Rhetoric, I must remember that I am called to forgive these people. 

The fact that they represent the worst of my country and always have - the bullies and the waspy elitism that keeps people like me on the outside looking in - doesn't matter.

The fact that one side attacks post-abortive women as 'selfish' rather than looking at the conditions that caused us to do the most unnatural thing in the world (kill our own children) rather than take responsibility for the life we created,

I am struck, again, at how my inability to forgive has shaped my life.  If only I had learned the lesson earlier, the lesson that Love tries so hard to impart, that human beings are weak.  There is not one of them who will not disappoint or err - and if they are a normal human being, it will happen again and again.  My job, as a Catholic, is to continue to forgive and give them another chance.  It is to evaluate them and ask, "How has my behavior over the years mimicked what I am seeing now?  Was I forgiven?  Was I forgiven again and again?"  The answer, if I am to be honest, will always be "Yes and Yes, I was" because those who have remained a constant in my life have done just that - forgiven me, again and again.

I am not advocating this for everyone.  I made my choice years ago to walk a certain spiritual path.  It is a stony, rock fill road upon which I treat.  It is not for everyone and I get it.  I also get why, for so many, the tough hike that is Christianity can be so overwhelming that the theology will be changed to make it easier.  Maybe only walk half way, or maybe only think about walking.....that is enough, these people will claim, to get you in to heaven.


I walk with beauty and Truth....and I will keep trying.  Every time I stumble, I will get up and try again.

You are welcome to join me if you like!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Welcome, Papa - Boy, Do We Need You NOW!

Today, Pope Francis arrived at the White House where he was greeted with the necessary pomp and circumstances.  Papa looked tired from his recent triumphant arrival in Cuba, but he took the time to make his first ever speech in English, greeting the faithful and the unfaithful with the same love and compassion.  He is, as the media likes to proclaim, The People's Pope.  While I have no idea what that is supposed to mean, I know that he is the leader of The Church Jesus Christ founded, the successor to the Apostle Peter and the Servant of the Servants of God.  He is The Pope, and I for one am thrilled he is here.

Many others who dabble in Scripture and Christianity have seized upon his visit to the United States as the sign of the eminent end of the world (click here for an interesting article on this phenomenon/).  The predictions are fast an many - from Mormons to Fringe Catholics, everyone wants to pin down the time and date of the end.  I don't claim to understand this either; I mean, if we did know that it was going to happen on September 28 at 2PM I would think the people who would be the most upset would be NFL Season Ticket holders.  After spending all that money, I would be demanding to speak to Jesus.

Then again, what would I say?  'I want a refund'?  It's the end of the world, Leslie.  What are you going to do with a refund?

The Pope comes with a message that is simple and direct - so simple and direct that most people miss it by a mile.  He comes with an open heart and open mind and complete honesty.  We are what we are, this Church Jesus founded.  We are dusty, we are dirty, we are traditional and we are wounded.  We are filled with sinners who hope to persevere to the end of the race and understand that while no one can snatch us from the Hand of God we can certainly jump out of His loving grasp whenever we decide that we have a better idea.  We cannot earn His love, but if we do not demonstrate it then we are lying when we say we have Faith.  We cannot earn our way into heaven, but we better be ready to give an accounting to Jesus of what we did on earth when we had the chance or we know we will not be recognized among the sheep.

We cannot change Truth to suit you....but we will try and help you live by that Truth as best you can, one day at a time.

Every true Catholic knows we are not saved by a single act or prayer.  Every Catholic knows that it takes work to make our Faith alive.  Every Catholic knows that you do not leave The Eucharist because you have a political agenda that does not jive with Catholic teachings.  Those who do leave have a lot of explaining to do and I keep them in prayer, because I would not want to have to stand before Jesus and say, "I left You because I did not like the men you chose to be Apostles".

During the Papal Visit, my prayer is that the fires of their Baptism be reignited for all Catholics.  I dream of them all returning to the one true Church.  I wish for them the joy of the Gospel, the fullness of faith and The Eucharist - the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

And if this is the end of the world, I hope Jesus recognizes me for who and what I am....

Help me, O Lord.  Save me, O Christ.  Love me, for I am a sinner in need of salvation.

Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Historical Sins - Do Apologies Matter?

A photo was recently posted on FaceBook that depicted a large Black man, chained to a whipping post, clad only in raggedy pants.  Surrounded by a crowd of jeering Whites, he was about to be whipped by an equally large White man.

The caption claimed that Negro Slaves were whipped until they professed their love for Jesus.  It challenged the viewer (it was aimed at a Black audience and supposedly put together by someone claiming to be telling the 'truth' about history) to ask themselves 'what they were' before they were Christian.

I have no doubt that there have been some horrible crimes committed in the name of Christianity.  I have never pretended that the Catholic Church has harbored Her fair share of the perpetrators of these crimes.  In fact I regularly infuriate some of Her biggest 'haters' (Lord, how I hate that word) by acknowledging the sins of the past, asking for forgiveness and then stating that the behavior of sinners does not reflect upon the Truth; rather, it reflects upon the sinners' inability to successfully live The Truth.  I also periodically anger people who re-state commons lies about The Church.  Saint Junipero Sera did not kill Native Americans - the Spanish Government sure did but he did not.  Galileo was not tortured, unless you call having to argue constantly with Jesuits like St Robert Bellarmine torture.  The Inquisition did not kill 25 million people and the Crusades were not perpetrated against innocent Muslims.  Yes, there were pedophile priests.  No, it was not the majority of them; in fact, there are more sexual crimes committed against children by non-denominational Christians than Catholic priests. 

In other words, when Catholics screw up I will admit it.  I will not, however, admit to crimes simply because the popular culture has enshrined certain 'facts' in their minds.  My challenge to people is this: do your homework, use your heads, read other sources besides secular WASP historians and ask questions.

In the case I cited above, I started asking questions and got shut down immediately as a Racist pig trying to gloss over the horrors done against the Black people by White people. 

I asked questions because the assertion did not make sense historically - in fact, one of the great tragedies of the European Slave Trade is the collusion between Catholic and Protestant Europe with Islam.

People don't like this fact but it is true:  the early documents that we now accept as the New Testament speak to the spread of Christianity throughout Europe and Africa.  Many parts of Africa were Christian for centuries, actually shielded by isolation from the rift between East and West and the so-call 'reformers' of Europe.  Coptics, Ethiopians, and others were African - and Christian - until the conquering hordes of Islamic Invaders brought them a new religion at the end of a sword.  Many of the people stayed Christian, and lost their freedom to the slave trade.

The other part of this historical equation is this:  the mission of The Church is to evangelize.  We are not supposed to stay private with our faith and we are certainly not supposed to keep Truth to ourselves.  We have been charged by God Himself to go forth and Baptize the Nations.  We have to - if we don't we are in trouble when we stand before Him at the end of time.

Are we supposed to do it at the end of a sword or a gun or by whipping people?

No...we are not....and when there have been Catholics who have done so they have had to stand before Him at their deaths, explaining why they thought it was a good idea to force someone to 'become Christian or else'.  You see, doing so flies right in the face of what and who we are - it is a horrific sin. You can tell we are not doing the right thing if we do stuff like that and only a madman or insane woman would try and convince you or themselves of the validity of that kind of behavior.

My question now is this:  In light of the effort made by St John Paul II to atone for the past sins of the Catholic Church, will we ever be forgiven?

You see, our detractors have us at a disadvantage.  Just as we cannot justify raping, beating or torture as catechetical tools, neither can we hold hatred and grudges towards those who have used those methods against us.  If we do, we are merely demonstrating once more - to the world - that we are sinners.  Again, we are not proving that The Truth is not real; rather, we are proving our inability to live The Truth.

For us, we have examples of those who do live The Truth.  In fact, today we have someone new to pray with and to, a man who shows that being tortured and beaten to death in the name of someone's false religion is the hazard all Catholics face today.

Blessed Benedict Daswa, Pray for Us.;_ylt=A0SO8ye5MvdV0qYAIkRXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTExbGtvMmJiBGNvbG8DZ3ExBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDVUlDMV8xBHNlYwNzYw--