Thursday, February 13, 2020

What does it mean to lose someone?

I have been confronted with two interesting problems from two different women over the past 48 hours.  Both problems are centered on the fear of losing someone.  For one, it is the fear of losing themselves if they relinquish their right to be hurt and in pain.  For the other, it is the fear of losing a beloved child to the muck and the mire of the world.

Both women are sincere in their fear - they do not want to lose.  I understand them, I have empathy for them and I have been exactly where they are right now.  I get it.

One woman is absolutely willing to die of the disease of alcoholism because looking at what it is she needs to do move forward in her life is really, really difficult.  She will not accept certain truths - one being that an acknowledgment of a crime committed against her will be made and another being that an apology for that crime will be offered.  Her hurt over this injustice is tremendous.  Her inability to accept that there is nothing she can do to force people to acknowledge and then apologize actually has the power to kill.

The other woman is frightened that a life she brought into the world, that she has spent her adulthood nurturing and loving and caring for and teaching the Truths of the Catholic Faith will walk away and dive headfirst into a world that tells us sin doesn't exist and feelings are all that matter.  She struggles with the idea that perhaps she should give in and relent and redraw boundaries so they will be more to the child's liking.  She wonders if she is 'too' something - too strict, too demanding, too devout - and so struggles with the idea that her being 'too' will rupture the relationship and she will lose the child.

Both of these women have a lot in common and both are struggling with stuff I have also grappled with for the past 27 years.  The fear is real.  Losing a person is difficult.  Taking a step out from a comfortable hate and hurt can be so frightening as to affect one physically.  TRUSTING is the toughest thing to do on the planet and add "in God" to the equation and it can blow up your whole world.

Years ago I was challenged to forgive the perpetrator of a grievous crime.  I lost my composure when that suggestion was made to me, even going so far as to suggest that the person making it did not know what he was talking about because he is a man.  Being a man, I raged, meant he had no concept of the torture I went through, the pain it caused, the hurt I hold and how that act had molded me in such a twisted way that I continued to make foolish choices based on that one moment in my life.

The man said two things to me that stopped me in my tracks:

1.  How sure am I that the crime committed against me is never committed against men?

2.  The guy that did that to me cannot remember my name or my face.  Me?  I am allowing him to control my life and my life choices.

Later, years later, I was told that my devotion to Truth and outspoken love for my religion was driving people away from me.

My response was to look closely at how I was evangelizing and to learn how to do that better.  I also made it very clear to the person giving me that information that I was not going to walk away from The Eucharist so they could feel more comfortable around me.

As a result, people who had just weeks earlier told me they loved me walk away from me.

It hurt.

You will never know how much it hurt.

All of them are in my life today.

What changed?  Me?  Sure.  As I said I went out of my way to improve my communication techniques.


I have no idea.  I don't ask.  I simply greet them with a kiss and go about my business.  If they are there when it is time for dinner, fabulous.  If not, I bet they are ok and will find their own way to get fed.

I will never be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect but I think the point of this journey is to keep trying.  If something from my past is causing me to be less than my best but I refuse to do the work necessary to heal that wound then I cannot expect people to see me as anything other than pathetic.

However, if I have found Truth and I take the sharing of that Truth seriously?  I cannot stop doing that; rather, I can find ways to do it better and I can put the results into the Hands of Jesus Christ.  I scan the horizon for them.  I stand ready to run to greet them.  I trust that God will guide them and I hope that at some point in their lives they will be open to that guidance.

Two women I know are struggling and only one is willing to do the work.

I can make a safe bet as to which one is going to start sleeping better at night.

Monday, February 3, 2020

The Theology of Losing the Superbowl - Redemptive Suffering?

Oh the pain of defeat!  The blown calls, the poor choices of coaching in the 4th quarter, the interception!  I tell you this was a heartbreaker!


Then I remember:

My team came roaring into the 2019 season and took the NFC Title.  We have a team full of rookies and young players and the season was just magic.

And in all honesty, if I have to lose to someone I am glad it was to the KC Chiefs.  That Patrick Mahomes is fun to watch and they have had a 50 year drought - we have only waited 25 years - so we can bide our time.  CONGRATULATIONS TO THE CHIEFS (and we will be back!)!!

The best part of the entire season has to be the time I have gotten to spend with my 98 year old Forty Niner Faithful mother (who, btw, has fired the coach after yesterday's loss so....).  She was honored in the press, by friends and by the team.  Every game was a chance for me to build some amazing memories.  I am so grateful to God for allowing me this time with her.

I am grateful to my friends and my friends of friends for sending her swag and making her smile.

I am so grateful for all the fun we had this season (hey, Niners - can we lighten up on the heart attack games next year?).

I am so grateful for the friends who joined us for games and helped cheer our team into the Superbowl!

And I could not be more grateful to Brian Clark and John Holland of the Modesto Bee for giving her a shot at local fame.




Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Being Catholic Out Loud and a Famous Sinner

Like many I was stunned by the untimely death of Kobe Bryant on January 26th, 2020.  He was killed in a helicopter crash along with his daughter GiGi, John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and pilot Arah Zobayan. Kobe was only 41 years old.  He left an amazing athletic legacy.  His everyday legacy was more complicated and, in my eyes, much more beautiful.

Kobe Bryant's legacy is one of sin, redemption and (we hope) salvation.  In this respect his legacy is no different than my own.    He occupied a unique niche in the world - a famous man of color who, mired in sin and suddenly confronted with its consequences chose to turn back to the Truth of his Catholic Faith and get to work.  He did not rely upon a false doctrine to try and mitigate what he had done - sexual immorality at the least, sexual violence against a woman at the most - but rather he faced his sin and took action.  Kobe moved forward.  He spent his time doing penance and making amends and reaching out to other athletes to make himself available as a mentor to them when life handed them a huge slap in the face.  Don't believe me?  Listen to Richard Sherman's memories of Kobe and then watch him make the Sign of the Cross on the sidelines before the game on Sunday.

I am partial to these legacies because it is the one I will leave.  While I am not a person of color or famous I absolutely understand what it means to be confronted with one's own failings and knowing without a doubt that if I was to die right then the message I would hear from my Lord and Savior would not be "Well done, my good and faithful servant".   I know what it means to sit there, on the floor, in the dark, alone and realize that I was choosing to go to hell despite being given the tools to go to heaven.  I know what it is like to venture back towards the light only to scurry away again in fear because the greeting I received in the pew from my fellow sinners was not 'welcome home' but 'what the hell...who are you?'.

Kobe Bryant lived the Faith.  He epitomized what we should be - a sinner who says out loud that they are going to do whatever it takes to no longer offend God.

Now, ultimately our reason for that should be to not offend God because we do not want to offend God.  Seriously - that should be the reason.  I should detest all my sins not just because I fear the loss of heaven and the pains of hell but because I flat out do not want to offend He who never stops loving me.

That being said I am fully aware of my defects of character and sometimes the best I can do is act right because I don't want to get in trouble, rather than I get satisfaction and peace simply from doing the right thing.  No matter what, I understand I am a work in progress.  My hope resides in Him and in Truth.

Kobe Bryant gives me hope.  Because I am a woman who experienced sexual assault I am always leery of a high profile person who seems to skate past any punishment when they are accused of the same.  In this case, however, reading about his experience it has allowed me to recognize that redemption and forgiveness is possible for all people, including those I don't particularly like or those I admire.  God loves.

I hope that is the message of Kobe Bryant's life.  God loves.  God is.  God forgives.

We all need to hear that message - and we all need to spread that joy.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Superbowl Bound and Fallen Away Catholics

You know I could not let this month end without a shout out to my team.  The San Francisco Forty Niners had a DREAM season.  We are on our way to Miami and 'IT FEELS GREAT, BABY'.  Win or lose, I have to pause and thank them. The Hot Boyzz, the amazing Offense, the coaches and the staff - thank you.  This Niner Faithful did not expect this kind of turn around, though she did have an inkling it was coming after the rumblings from last year.  However, in the words of Redeemed CB Richard Sherman, "Stay Humble, Faithful".  KC is no pushover and that kid, Mahomes is so much fun to watch, right?  So win or lose, the Niners are my team and I expect Sunday, February 2 to be a lot of fun to watch!

Hot Girlzzz  2019-2020 Season!

I had a really interesting conversation with someone on Facebook that I knew was not going to end well (for them) but I felt was important to have.  The women involved are both lapsed Catholics.  Both are convinced they 'learned the truth' after being denied things like Holy Scripture and being lied to about Purgatory while going to Catholic Church.  One had a long list of her 'bonefides' - my aunts were nuns, educated at Notre Dame, have master degrees, I went to Catholic school for x number of years, the people across the street were Catholic and they was impressive, this list.
But the overwhelming evidence, based on what they declared they had been taught, was that they were horribly catechized by these people.  Nothing that they declared they were told was true.  I don't mean a little off, I mean flat out untrue.

Now there could be a variety of explanations for this including the most obvious - they think they heard what was said and missed the nuances - but it brought home for me the importance of what I do every day here in my job.  Being a Catechist is probably one of the most difficult and yet vital roles of the members of the Body of Christ next to that of the priest.  Without the priest we have no Sacramental life.  Without the Catechist, we have no one wanting the Sacramental life.  We are, truly, two sides of the same coin.

Without proper catechesis Catholics will waltz into any protestant denomination that hands out crackers and grape juice and think they have received Holy Communion.  Without proper catechesis Catholics will choose the protestant place up the street because they have a really cool light show and a great band.  Without proper catechesis we - Catholics - becomes one more lump on the fire of Christian communities rather than the Rock from which the rest chip themselves away.

As a Dominican, I am urged to take the time to know my audience.  What I have learned from that is to stand strong in the face of the "I used to be Catholic I left and Let Me Tell You What You Get Wrong" group.  I have learned that they are hurting and it is usually around being told they do not get to do something they really, really want to do.  Because they can usually find another group - usually American Episcopalians, that will okay everything that makes one feel good - that looks a lot like us but without that particular teaching they can jump in and scream, "OLLY OLLY OXEN FREE" and feel dandy about themselves.  Then, when that group disappoints them - usually around asking for time or money - they can scamper away from there, grab a poorly translated Bible and declare they are just fine with 'Jesus and Me'.

This always stems from a wound of some sort.  They feel devalued and they feel left out and it hurts their feelings and I get it.  We have a lot of super Catholics that delight in telling others they are going to go right to hell because they married outside the Church or had an abortion or slept with someone of the same sex.  What they do not seem to delight in is telling the whole Truth.  They do not take the time to explain.

Now, in all fairness the two ladies I was interacting with got very angry with me.  One has blocked me.  She claimed I insulted her entire family by standing firm in my assertion that if her aunt who was a nun and had a masters degree did not teach her about Apostolic Succession, or how Catholics define Faith or why we believe in a state of being we have named Purgatory then she did not do a good job teaching her.  And if her aunt who was a nun and had a masters degree told her that the minute you are divorced you are kicked out the Catholic Church then that aunt who was a nun and had a masters degree was incorrect and poorly educated.  When she told me the masters degree was from Notre Dame, I did not shrug and say, "well, there you go" so I think I deserve Catholic Brownie Points for that one.

Fact is I did not insult her or her family.  The Truth is not insulting.  It can be difficult to hear.  It can be delivered harshly ( I took great pains to be kind in all my wording).  It can be tough to swallow.

But Truth is not insulting.  It can be insulted but no, it cannot be insulting.

Because Truth is not something - it is Somebody.

Jesus does not insult, He invites.  He tells you what is up and He does not pull His punches but the last thing He would ever do is insult.

So I continue to pray for both the ladies.  They hearts are so wounded.  Their anger and their pride wafts off the screen like dung covered in snow.

And I will continue to catechize.  Because I have an obligation and a job to do.

The Church needs me.

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Forgotten Catholic

Recently I put out flyers for a Catholic conference being held in our area.  The people behind the apostolate are good, solid, loving members of the Catholic Church.  They are family oriented.  They are loyal to the Magisterium.  They understand that Faith means more than just belief; it means an assent of the will.  They are Dominican.  Their only real flaw, as far as I can tell, is that they are Raider fans.

They have chosen to focus on the family in Catholic life.  They believe (and I agree) that a strong Catholic family means a strong Catholic Church.  And strong Catholic Church means a strong community at large, because to be a strong Catholic means we care about society as a whole.

I am a bit of thorn in their side, however, because I constantly remind them (like, you know,  any chance I get) that there is a segment of the Catholic Population that is growing and largely forgotten.  To forget about them is to undermine the Family as a whole, because theologically the Family is more than just the domestic church; rather, it is the Body of Christ.

I am aware of this growing population because I belong to it - we are the Baby Boomers who are back in the Pew.

We lived scandalous lives and then got our heads out of our armpits.  We killed our own children because we mistakenly believed we didn't HAVE a choice - much like Michelle Williams we honestly believed that unless we killed our child we would not be able to go forward and achieve in our careers, or we were told by the 'him' in our life that we would be left alone and so unable to care for ourselves and our child, or we were forced into the abortion clinic through physical or mental coercion by well meaning parents who thought their child couldn't have a child.  Whatever our reason most of us did not really have a choice because we didn't think we had any other option, and now we are reaping what we have sown.

We have our houses.  We have our dependable cars.  We have our bank accounts.  We have our dogs and our cats.  We can bake, crochet, create beautiful artwork, cook an amazing meal, decorate a lovely home.  We read, we are well educated and up on current affairs.  We volunteer in and outside the Parish.  We have those bank accounts the parish Administrators love to tap.

What we don't have is family.

We have no grandchildren to hold, no daughter to pass on that wedding dress in our closet to, no son to dance with at the reception.  We have no child to congratulate when they get the promotion, we have no one to sit with at Mass.

We have to hire someone to put up those outside Christmas lights.  We put jerseys on our dogs during football season.  We pray for all of you every day before the Blessed Sacrament or in the privacy of our bedrooms and then we read your online posts about what you think about post abortive women  and we cringe.

Our favorite Scripture passages have to do with returning sinners, because that is who we identify with the most.  We know what it is like to come to the realization that society lied to us, that we BOUGHT that lie hook, line and sinker, and now we just want to come home and be a part of The Church.

So....what happens....

We sit in the pew and look at all the people around us who we think lived life the right way and now their entire family - Grandma, Grandpa, Mom, Dad and all 15 of their perfectly scrubbed children - fill two pews and we think.....look what I did....forgive me....look what I did.

Now, of course we are not completely right in this - it is envy and jealousy on our part and that is a sin. Besides I don't know any perfect families with perfectly behaved children.  I don't care how cute they are in their matching outfits and how many pictures you put on FB I know there are times when the moms in those photos want to run screaming from the room or the dads think about faking their deaths and moving to France. I am not na├»ve.  I get it.

I also know that there is a beauty to my life that they do not share.  It is not a BETTER beauty but it is a beauty none the less.  I can spend all night reading if I want. I can binge on Netflix.  I can say, "No" to attending a party or I can attend three in the same evening.  I can go to the Adoration Chapel whenever I feel like it and I do not have to cook if I don't want to and all I really HAVE to do is make sure I am a good steward to my animals and to the environment around me in the ways the Church teaches.

However, I am aware that we as a society often have a hard time integrating issues.  We think Pro Life only means being against abortion.  As important as that issue is we forget that being Pro Life means so much more.  It means working towards clean water and air, providing a good solid education to all, the availability of good jobs (not just minimum wage ones, either, people), affordable and safe housing, care for the sick and the elderly, reaching out to the poor and the mentally ill, supporting law enforcement and our military and first responders and otherwise working towards a society that supports the Dignity of the Human Person at ALL stages of development.   We think family means ONLY the domestic church and we forget that it also means caring for and loving those who have fallen short but by golly they are back and they are trying to be a part of the Body of Christ.

I challenge all Catholics and all our Parishes to look at the Whole Life idea of being Pro Life.    Look around you - who is at Mass every week that you see but to whom you have never said hello.?  Are they wearing a nice pair of earrings?  Compliment them.   Do they have a Raiders jacket on?  Commiserate with them.  Can you shoot them a smile as you get into your regular place in the pew?  Double dog dare you - shoot out that smile.

Let's not forget these members of the Body of Christ.  They are special, they have a worth that may be unnoticed and they have so much to offer.

And if you are one of the Forgotten, make some noise.  Become a Catechist, attend classes, contribute to the bake sale, haunt the office and make yourself available to help.  More importantly?  Look for that family that doesn't have a Noni or a Nono and make yourself available.  Don't have grandkids? GO GET SOME.

Let's reclaim our lives - and let's show the world what being prolife really is!