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Friday, February 27, 2015

Friendship - What Does it Mean?

2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

Recently I have given a great deal of thought to what a true and lasting friendship should be and it occurs to me that it, like anything else in my life, must mirror my relationship with Christ and His Church.  I am called to be a complete Christian.  I cannot bifurcate my life and only be a Catholic Out Loud when it suits me or when it is safe to be so or when it is easy because everything is going my way.  In that same manner, if I am to give myself to someone in friendship I must be willing to let them know the complete me and I must be willing to look at them with the eyes of Christ. 

Now, in today's world we are so childish we misinterpret the above sentiment to mean that a real friend puts no expectations on us, does not hold us to any standard of behavior and will put up with any falderrahl and goofiness we wish to dish out.  When someone says to us, "Hey, you do not get to do that here!" we are hurt and puzzled.  Aren't they are friend?  Aren't they supposed to love us with Christian Love and accept us for who we are, come what may?

This attitude of babyish demands for acceptance is perpetrated by Facebook Memes and Pineterest Posts.  'A Real Friend Will Always Be There No Matter What You Do' is the dominant theme, words usually written over a background of a woman with long dark hair, wearing a flowing dress, either standing on a cliff over looking the sea or walking along the beach or a long dusty road.  They are usually alone.

I am convinced they are alone because no one wants to be around them. 

If the meme does have two humans in it, it is usually a picture of two children around the age of 5. 

Our society today has mistaken true friendship for kind of disinterested hedonism.  If you are to be my friend then by golly you better accept me for exactly who I am right this minute, and don't you dare put any expectations on me.  After all, I am perfect - Mama's little darling and Daddy's little delight.  I get trophies for showing up on time and if I want something you better give it to me right now!  I am six years old when I am close to 40 and I am whiny and I am demanding that you tell me I am beautiful when my behavior is atrocious. 

I just do not think this is real friendship.

If my behavior is supposed to mirror the behavior of Christ, I must be willing to look at what my friendship with Christ is - and Christ puts demands on me.  Christ commands me to behave in a certain way.  If I do not take certain actions, Christ will claim He does not know me.  If I choose to behave in ways that cause Him pain, He will never stop loving me but He will not allow me into His Kingdom.

Why would someone on earth be expected to be different?

If I behave in a way that is contrary to social norms, that causes pain or anguish to someone, that is disrespectful and angry and demanding and childish why in the world would I expect them to allow me to be a part of their life? 

And why would I ever think that anyone who did not expect me to live up to my potential and a true Child of God be anything other than a false friend?

Nope, I cannot hold to that idea.  I think, and I believe and I live, that it is my responsibility to hang with those who want the best of me.  I think I would be foolish to hang out with anyone who rubber stamps my emotional tantrums, my bad behavior, my unwillingness to be a better Leslie one day at a time.

So, for me friendships mean more than just being able to hang out in a coffee shop.  I want people in my life who want my highest good.

What do you want in your life?

Monday, February 23, 2015

You Owe Me!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

1906 By common good is to be understood "the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily."26 The common good concerns the life of all. It calls for prudence from each, and even more from those who exercise the office of authority. It consists of three essential elements:
1907 First, the common good presupposes respect for the person as such. In the name of the common good, public authorities are bound to respect the fundamental and inalienable rights of the human person. Society should permit each of its members to fulfill his vocation. In particular, the common good resides in the conditions for the exercise of the natural freedoms indispensable for the development of the human vocation, such as "the right to act according to a sound norm of conscience and to safeguard . . . privacy, and rightful freedom also in matters of religion."27 1908 Second, the common good requires the social well-being and development of the group itself. Development is the epitome of all social duties. Certainly, it is the proper function of authority to arbitrate, in the name of the common good, between various particular interests; but it should make accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life: food, clothing, health, work, education and culture, suitable information, the right to establish a family, and so on.28 1909 Finally, the common good requires peace, that is, the stability and security of a just order. It presupposes that authority should ensure by morally acceptable means the security of society and its members. It is the basis of the right to legitimate personal and collective defense.

I have heard a lot of people demanding their rights lately and it got me thinking.  If I understand them correction, if I want something that you (or a group) has that want is a right.

To question my want is to indicate that you want to deprive me of my right to have that want, whatever it is, and that makes you a very bad person.

I rarely hear the word 'responsibility' paired with the word 'right' anymore unless that responsibility is placed upon those who are questioning the assertion.  At that moment, it becomes their responsibility to acquiesce, to say, "okay" and probably, "I'm sorry".  The apology, of course, is because they had the audacity to even ask the question, "Is your want a right?".

When I look to the teaching of Holy Mother Church I see an interesting view of what society needs to aim for in terms of social justice.  Guided by the Holy Spirit, The Church reminds us all that we are one body and, therefore, should strive for what philosophers refer to as 'The Common Good".

The Common Good requires three essential elements.  Any first year High School philosophy class will teach this (or at least used to) because it is so very foundational to understanding what role society plays in the protection and nurturing of the individual.  While all three elements are essential, it is worthy to note that the very first one discussed is respect.

Without respect, in particular the respect for the individual, no one gets to exercise their rights in the manner in which God intends.  Why?

I maintain that without respect for the individual one becomes self-absorbed to the point where the only thing that matters is what they want and what they think they need.  Unless one develops the ability to look both inward and outward one never develops an ability to see themselves as a small part of a greater whole.  They start to think they don't matter because they cannot see how they are connected to those around them.  When someone starts to think they don't matter, they become afraid and when they become afraid they develop predatory instincts.  If I don't matter to you, then I have to defend myself against you.  If I am in a constant state of fear because I think I don't matter to anyone, I have to strike first in order to remain safe.

Turning my attention outward allows me to recognize that I matter because you matter.  I start to see the place I occupy as something given to me by my Creator and something to nurture and share rather than defend or enlarge.  If, by circumstances, I gain some authority in the world I do not see it as something to wield like a club; rather, I see it as a tool to lift others up and to make God's World a better place for the Common Good.

Today I am fully aware that my rights are accompanied by my responsibilities.  I must have the ability to see both - without that ability, I am just another angry woman waving my arms and demanding that you give me what I want right now.

After's my right. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Sin and Growth

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the "eternal punishment" of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the "temporal punishment" of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.

It is often the assertion of our separated brothers and sisters that Jesus' Death on the Cross and their acceptance of Him as their personal Lord and Savior means all sin has been conquered.  They cannot lose their salvation., they claim.  They cannot do anything to merit their salvation and so their works mean nothing - just as their sin, if they commit any - cannot keep them from heaven.

Sometimes, especially if you talk with someone who has some actual theology study behind them, they will assert that if someone does commit a sin after accepting Jesus into their heart then it means they really didn't accept Jesus into their heart...which gets very confusing and doesn't make a lot of sense.

The Catholic understanding of sin is not only reasonable it is true.

One is saved through the merits of Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross.  Nothing else can open the gates of heaven.  Our own righteousness does not accomplish this and that is evident by the fact that our elder brothers and sisters in the Faith did not enter into heaven upon their death.  In fact, Jesus had to descend to them and lead them home.  Catholics know, believe and understand that anything we do is not about saving ourselves or mankind.

We also understand that we have to work out our salvation, and do so with respect for God, His Church and our own concupiscence (Phil 2:12).  We know that we have a goal to attain, a goal of our Faith and that goal is salvation (1 Pet 1:9).  We cannot be so arrogant as to think we cannot, willfully and intentionally, leap out of the Hand that holds us and that Our Father will not respect that decision.  God wants us to be saved - He doesn't make us saved against our own free will.

Jesus promised me (Mt 10:22) that if I endure to the end I will be saved.  He made it pretty clear that I have to be willing to lose my own life for His sake if I am wanting that life - the eternal life - to be one spent with Him (Mk 8:35).  He also made it pretty clear that what I do and how I do it is going to matter a lot when I stand before Him to receive the General Judgment.  St Paul told me flat out, I am created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph 2:8-10) and if I don't do that I may be one of those people who do not get to enter heaven (Mt 7:21).

None of this ever mattered to me as much as it does now, not because I am a better Catholic now but because I see so many people today making foolish and childish choices.  I know I did the same but now, because I have lost so many loved ones, I have a much better understanding that any day, any hour, any minute could be my last.  I could be standing in front of Jesus for my Particular Judgment this afternoon.  I could be standing there 35 years from now.  Either way, I have to make sure I am doing my part to assure my standing in the Book of Life.

Please keep those who have strayed from the path of Truth.  My heart goes out to them; I will not chase after people but it always makes me sad when they walk away.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Superbowl and Internet Trolls

What a great Superbowl!

The game came down to the final seconds and it was a rookie member of the NE Patriots Defense that saved the day.

The look on Richard Sherman's face made sitting there not watching my team in the Big Show worth every minute.

Thank you, Jesus....and Tom Brady....and Malcolm Butler.

Now that we are gearing up for March Madness and Baseball Season (GO GIANTS!) I can turn my attention to another topic - Internet Trolls.

Recently I read a lovely piece by a woman writer by the name of Lindy West who writes for the Guardian.  The piece she wrote about confronting her internet troll may be found here:

The person who attacked Ms. West was especially cruel, much more so than those who have attacked me in the past, and her ability to confront and forgive demonstrate the power of Love and Human Spirit.  In a practical way, Ms. West proves herself to be a really brave woman and for that I salute you.

The worst case of Trolling that I encountered came from someone suffering horribly from the disease of alcoholism.  In the middle of the night, the unfortunate fellow decided to call my house and threaten to cut my throat.  My mother answered the phone.  Do not wake up an Italian mother in the middle of the night and threaten to cut the throat of one of her children.  The guy apparently started crying by the time Mama was finished with him and he had to resort to attending the same 12 step meetings I attend in order to get over making those kinds of phone calls.

Recently, as those who follow my blog know, I had a situation where a woman I did not know sent me a message on FB and asked one of those provocative "when did you stop beating your dog?" questions.  She was upset because she felt my writing as a Sober Catholic Woman who belongs to a 12 Step Program and, as such, sponsors men and women in said program, I was breaking anonymity.

I referred her to the guidelines offered by the General Service Office of the program in question. I stated my reasons for writing as I do, and I quoted her directly into my blog post.  She has never responded.

My point is this:  no one forces anyone to read our blogs.  My experience has been that Trolls are suffering horribly, and really want others to suffer too.  The irony is that when they cause a Catholic to suffer they are providing another means by which we can grow in holiness.  At the risk of bringing on more abuse, you Trolls are doing us Catholic Bloggers a favor when you call us 'fat ugly bitches who are probably doing it with the priest'.  You are hurting us with your words, causing us to wince and then giving us something to offer up for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

As much as I like to avoid suffering (another reason I will never be St Leslie K.) I have had my fair share.  I have been lied to and about, rejected and pummeled and accused of all kinds of nefarious deed and thought.

Throughout it all has been the running theme of "You think you are so much better than us".  I have been accused of trying to shove my religion down people's throats, or being judgmental (of course I am, Howie!  How else am I going to form an opinion or hold to a belief?) and other silly things.  I have even been called (today!) an IDIOT because I think our attention should be focused on something other than illegal immigrants being the root of all evil in this country.

Ms. West's experiences and the action she took simply fortifies my position:  Happy and secure people do not need to attack anyone.  They know how to disagree without being disagreeable.  They can listen and debate without taking it personally and they can end a discussion without using foul language.

Those who cannot do the above are Trolls.

And our job is to pray for them.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why I am Catholic Out Loud

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

1285 Baptism, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of Confirmation together constitute the "sacraments of Christian initiation," whose unity must be safeguarded. It must be explained to the faithful that the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace.89 For "by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed."90

It was bound to happen.  Someone like me, given the gifts of the Holy Spirit through the Sacrament of Confirmation, is going to eventually become a Catholic Out Loud.  We can't help it; our very nature precludes our ability to simply ignore Truth. 

We may fight it.  We might even deny it for a time.  At some point in our life, however, we are going to be confronted by reality and that confrontation will force us to make a choice.  The choice will be difficult. If we make the right one it will be even more difficult.  It will cause pain and division and make us the focus of ridicule, harassment and rejection.  People we thought we could count on and trust are going to walk, no...wait...RUN as fast as they can from us.  They will get angry when we do not accept their version of reality.  They will be furious when we reject their self-centered version of truth.  They will accuse us of bigotry and hatred. They will break our hearts and some of them will break our bodies.

It will not be an easy road.

Never will it dawn on them that something profound occurred in our life that forced us to do something we knew the world will reject.  The question of "what happened?" will not cross their minds; rather, they will scream that we are 'forcing' our ideas on them, that we are 'rejecting' them, that we are 'marginalizing' them.

We aren't, of course.  In fact we never shut the door to our new found life and freedom; rather, we make it available to anyone.

The problem?

We won't change reality to suit their needs.

Too many of us are caught up in the belief that if we do not think something is true then it's not, that subjective truth is the only truth.  Unfortunately, that is a falsehood itself.  It is a huge lie, taught to us by a society that really, really wants everyone to just get conflict, please. 

Subjective truth - a truth when the all powerful "ME" is the subject - is true only when it is about me.  I am allergic to penicillin.  Penicillin, therefore is not a life saving medicine.  That is not true for someone facing a massive infection that is NOT allergic to penicillin, but it is true for me.  That is a subjective truth.

Objective truth is true whether I believe it or not.  A watch is not a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  My saying it is won't make it one.  My biting into the watch and ingesting it won't make it one.  It is what it is, whether I believe it or not.

When someone says to me, "Well, that's fine but I do not believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ" I am always tempted to say, "And that matters, why?".  Quite frankly, if they want to reject philosophical evidence, historical evidence and sociological evidence then go ahead but that does not reflect on the Truth they are rejecting; rather, it reflects on their inability to make rational decisions.

I can't help them with is not my business.

I received the Sacrament of Confirmation and so received my marching orders.  I ignored them for years.  I rejected them in favor of being one of the popular girls at the dance.  I stomped my feet and waved my fists in the air, demanding that the orders be changed to something that I could do without losing favor with the world.

Didn't work.

I am a Baptized, Confirmed Catholic.

I am Catholic Out Loud.