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Monday, July 18, 2016

What is Faith?

FAITH. The acceptance of the word of another, trusting that one knows what the other is saying and is honest in telling the truth. The basic motive of all faith is the authority (or right to be believed) of someone who is speaking. This authority is an adequate knowledge of what he or she is talking about, and integrity in not wanting to deceive. It is called divine faith when the one believed is God, and human faith when the persons believed are human beings. (Etym. Latin fides, belief; habit of faith; object of faith.) ....Modern Catholic Dictionary On Line)

I had a really interesting discussion this morning with someone I mentor in my 12-Step program.  Her service commitment is that of a 'speaker seeker' - someone who looks for another member to speak at our home group about the topic of the week.  Because we are a closed meeting of our program, as well as a Step and Tradition Study, we have a specific reading and topic each time we meet and so it is important to invite people who a) have some experience working the steps of our program,  b) understand the traditions of our program and c) are willing to stick to the topic.  The last bit may seem redundant but it really can be difficult.  For instance, it is not unusual to invite someone to speak about Step 8 only to hear a 10 minute presentation on their experience with Step 9.

Our upcoming topic is Step 6; which reads : "Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character".  In one part of our literature, this step is described as one that separates the 'men from the boys', implying that working this step is not only difficult but requires a determination and maturity that children do not have.

As we talked this morning, we asked ourselves what the real bedrock principle is behind this step and what we came up with is the principle of 'FAITH'.

So, I went to the Catholic definition of that word and see that in involves the acceptance of the word of another (which makes sense) but that there is an underlying motive that I so often forgot when I was a young woman.  That motive is the authority of the one speaking, their RIGHT to be believed and an acknowledgement of their integrity to not deceive me.

Divine Faith, of course, is my accepting of God's authority in my life, that God knows what is best for me and that nothing in His universe happens in error whether it be something I like or something I dislike.

That, of course, is what causes the struggle..it is my inability to completely trust that what is causing me pain is something being allowed because God knows having my way about that something would not, in the long run, be good for me.

I hate that part.

My prayer today is for God to remove from my desire for something that is not happening in my time frame. 

Why?

I have come to the realization that my demanding of God that such-and-such happen right this minute or within the time frame I have set up is an example of my not fully trusting in God.  While I may pray for things to be different, if my happiness depends upon that difference, that outcome I desire, then I am not granting Him total authority over my life.  I am holding back, determined to show Him that I have a better idea.

My better ideas have always screwed me up, hurt other people and caused me pain.  Always.  I am not kidding...I have never once had an idea about what my life should be or what I should have in it or how I should live that has not cause anguish in the long run.  You may have a different experience but when it comes to me I have got to acknowledge that I have the worst judgment about me and what makes me happy....I make my plans, but unless I am willing to give those plans to God I am in trouble.  I make my decisions and take action, but unless I put the outcome into His Hands I am bound to screw things up.

Today, when I pray for guidance or pray my Novena for a special intention, I must be willing to add that caveat of "if it be Thy Will' to any of my requests.  I am not afraid to make them, but I better be willing to make a deliberate nod towards His authority.

Thank you, God, for my life today exactly as it is....even when I want to?  I would not change a thing.

amen.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Horrors of Life and How We Cope

I am beginning to marvel at the madness that has my country in its grip. 

Being a Catholic, I do not expect a perfect world.  I understand the effects of both Original Sin and ongoing sin on both the individual and society.  I know that there are a relative few who have made the decision to stand firm in the face of temptation and evil and that their commitment to do the right thing no matter what is the decision that spits in the eye of satan.

For them, and for those who take on the role of shepherd or sheepdog, I am forever grateful.

As a thinking, feeling human being I understand that the actions of a few under the color of authority can paint with a broad and horrible brush all those who wear the collar or the veil or the uniform or stand in front of a classroom.  Scandal is nothing new.  Horrific actions are not new.  I get that I am laughed at for loving my priest because of the horrible actions of about 5% of them over the past 2000 years.  I understand that the inability of police officers in other jurisdictions to exercise good judgment or proper restraint or display good moral fiber will mean all the men and women who wear the badge will be regarded with scorn.  A Teacher becomes pregnant by her 13 year old student?  All Teachers must endure the snickers and bad jokes and references to their 'need to work with children'. A report comes out about doctors sexually abusing their patients?  Every person who spends 48 hours straight in an ER trying to heal will be looked at with suspicion.

I understand.  I get it. 

Yesterday afternoon, I took my dog for a walk to the park.  I am used to being up there and seeing the park filled with families.  For some reason there wasn't another soul in the place.  I was a single, older woman with two fake knees and a little Scottish Terrier on a leash walking all by myself in a large park with trees and bushes.  Suddenly, I spotted a man...a lone man who was across the street and slightly behind me.  He was just standing there, minding his own business, and not doing much of anything but the hair on the back of my neck stood up and I got a warning signal in my stomach.

He crossed the street and now is directly behind me. 

I chose to follow my gut.  I chose to listen to the promptings of my Guardian Angel.  I chose to give in to my fear.  However you want to phrase it, I crossed to the other side, kept him in front of my line of vision until I had passed where he was and I cut my walk around the park short.  Instead I went back to my own neighborhood and walked around there.  It was not as comfortable for me or for Robbie but it was 'safer'.

Why did I do that?

I can tell you quite honestly that I did that because of the actions of some men.  Men, for a lone woman, can mean danger.  Danger of rape, of being beaten and robbed.  I took an action because I have been influenced by the actions of a few and because the history of attacks against women usually include questions about her behavior - how were you dressed?  How were you walking?  did you talk to him?  what were you doing up there, anyway? - and so I have, in my 60 years of life, adopted an attitude that translates into actions designed to keep me as safe as possible.

What I know, however, is that I can do everything right and still end up a victim of crime.

The gentleman in Minnesota did what every African American male is taught to do in order to stay safe...and he ended up dead because of poor judgment and lack of restraint.  Yes, I know there has not been an investigation as yet and I may be rushing to judgment myself.  My instinct tells me different.  I am willing to admit I am wrong if it turns out I am.

The peaceful protestors last night in Dallas were doing what they had been brought up to believe is the right way to show their concern as American citizens.  All races came together and the Dallas Police were doing their jobs - and the Caucasian members of the force and the crowd came under vicious sniper fire.  What did the crowd do?  It ran for cover.  What did the cops do?  They sprang into action and tried to protect them - and five men lost their lives as a result.

This morning, I cope in the only way I know how.  I pray.  I weep for the dead.  I beg God for the grace to be kind and understanding.  I do not respond to poorly written essays or statements on Social Media and I stand firm in my support of the community and those who are serving that community with honor.  I refuse to buy into hysteria.  I trust God.

May those who have lost loved ones over this past week take comfort in the love that is of God.  May those who have chosen to use this time as an excuse to execute those based on the color of our skin in some sort of weird retaliation remember that what you do reflects the will of the evil one.

I renounce evil.

Join me.

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.
*******************************************************************************

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.