Friday, July 31, 2009

#FrFriday: Father Augustine Tolten, America's First Black Priest

Last year I learned of Fr. Augustine Tolten. I couldn't imagine the difficulties and challenges he must have faced; from being born into a slave family to becoming a beloved priest in Chicago. What an amazing love he had for God and His Church, as he diligently pursued his vocation in spite of the incredible opposition to prevent him from doing so.

Fr. Tolten was born in 1854 and died at the age of 43 in 1897. He was baptized in the Catholic Church and tutored by the slave owner's wife. He desired to learn more, but was often met with prejudice. As a young man, he was a janitor and was able to attend clandestine classes taught by priests and nuns who recognized his love for God and assisted him in his vocation. When Tolten was rejected by every U.S. seminary he applied to, even to the one who was training priests to reach the 'Negro' population, these same priests and nuns helped Augustine Tolten travel to Rome where he was able to attend a seminary and was eventually ordained.

He was told his first mission would be to the Negroes in America. When he came back to Quincy, he began his ministry and quickly attracted a multi-racial congregation, drawn by his excellent sermons and educated, eloquent voice. Soon, there was jealousy - both from other Catholic priests and even Black Protestant ministers. Fr. Tolten eventually moved from Quincy to Chicago, where he served at St. Monica's until his death.

It's an amazing story of God's grace and provision. Rest in peace, Fr. Tolten, and may perpetual light shine upon you.

From Slave to Priest by Caroline Hemesath

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Don't Give Up

Last night I experimented with making banana bread. I decided to use chopped peanuts and add semi-sweet chocolate chips as a slight twist on a tried-and-true recipe. Sort of like a Banana Split Bread.

When I took the loaf from the oven, it looked perfect. Smelled heavenly. However, it was late and I needed to go to bed, so I covered the pan with aluminum foil and left for Sleepytown. I was looking forward to enjoying a slice with my morning coffee. Imagine my surprise when in the morning, I removed the foil to find my beautiful loaf had been transformed into a crater, as though an elf planted his little foot right in the middle! I tried to bake it more but that didn't work (of course). I sliced off the two decent-sized ends for my husband to take to work.

I ate a little but felt the recipe still needed work. I realized that this experiment is much like our journey toward sainthood. We try to make the right choices, do the right things; but sometimes, it doesn't work out according to our plans. But we usually learn something important in the process.

And, the truly important thing is: we keep on trying.

I don't know why I felt as though I was to share this with you, but perhaps you may feel a little like giving up. Maybe you're mumbling, "What's the use. Things will never change." Which isn't true. What is important is that we change. Life will continue to give us fallen breakfast breads, skinned knees, hurt feelings, unsatisfactory jobs, rickety cars, etc., etc. - but each one of those situations is an opportunity to thank God for His grace in our lives and pray for His Holy Spirit to infuse us with a fresh perspective, a determination to not only finish the race, but finish it well. We always have a choice in how we respond to life's struggles, small or large. Many times, it's a "back to the drawing board" and trying again.

So whatever is happening to you for the hundredth time, know you have a crowd of witnesses in heaven who is cheering you on. And me. :-)

Monday, July 27, 2009

What I Love About Catholicism: The Sanctity of Life

I have always believed abortion is wrong. Ending the life of a child while it is still in the womb is murder. To me, it is that clear. It is amazing the mental gymnastics some advocates for "pro-choice" will do in order to justify murder. In fact, I've often said that the consequences between killing a child within the womb and killing one outside the womb is simply a matter of timing. For the former, it's a "protected right." For the latter, it is a prosecutable crime.

I have always been proud of the Roman Catholic Church for her stance on the sanctity of life. It's not just about abortion but by honoring and respecting all life, from a newly-formed life in the womb to the elderly person whose life is still precious, even as they are nearer to eternity.

And now we come to economics.

The current health care bill has included a disturbing element in the proposed legislation. Euthanasia. Evidently, they want to be able to talk to elderly citizens on Medicare about how to end their lives sooner. You read that right. If this health care bill is passed, your grandparents (and eventually you) will be "counseled" on how to end their life earlier since elderly people will be viewed as a drain on the system.

One of the arguments of those who are pro-choice is this: either abort an unwanted child (especially if it's from a poor woman) or society will be forced to financially support the child for eighteen years through government subsidy programs.

This argument, according the Catholicism, is flawed from the very beginning because it assumes that a human life only has value if it is able to produce something for society. To relegate some one's worth to what they can contribute to society - is inhumane. Such arguments have led the world down the dark path of ethnic cleansing. Germany justified killing thousands of Jews, and also the elderly and infirm because supposedly they were a drain on the economy. We are witnessing this in greater measure today with other countries taking similar steps.

The Catholic Church has stood firm against such insanity. There is an integrity within Catholicism as the sanctity of life is promoted, supported, and preserved with the Right-to-Life movement, as well as the many Catholic institutions that take care of the elderly.

Life is a gift from God. It is a gift that cannot and should not be politicized, but tragically, it has. We're in for a fierce battle regarding the proposed health care bill. I am very happy to once again be with the Catholic Church and pray she will be a light during this very dark time.

Friday, July 24, 2009

#FrFriday: Father Michael J. McGivney, Founder of the Knights of Columbus

I would like institute a Friday tradition called #FrFriday. For those who aren't familiar with the hashtag, it is a way to mark a post on the popular micro-blogging service, Twitter. If you go to Twitter's search engine here, you could follow all sorts of topics. In fact, the hashtag search has become so popular that many conferences now create their own hashtag for an event (like #comic-con, going on now) so people who are unable to attend the conference can keep up with the observations of those who were able to attend.

I have no idea of my #FrFriday will ever catch on. Believe me, I'm no stranger to "starting" something only to see it go over like a lead balloon. But I keep trying! I will keep on trying for this particular hashtag, #FrFriday because on Twitter, Fridays are traditionally the day where others recommend other people to follow. (#FollowFriday) I thought that if priests aren't worth following, who is?! Hence - #FrFriday.

So I'm on the hunt to find priests both living or deceased to follow. I found a very interesting one today, Fr. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus. Fr. McGivney was so beloved by those who knew him that they are trying to get him recognized as a saint. That's amazing. Pope Benedict has given Fr. McGivney the title "Venerable Servant of God."

Fr. McGivney was a priest during a time when Catholics were scorned and reviled in American society. During the late 1800's, Catholics were often given menial, low-paying jobs. If the breadwinner of the family died, it often left the wife and children penniless. Fr. McGivney's vision was to form a supportive group for men and help future widows and orphans. The name, "Knights of Columbus," was chosen to pay homage to the Catholic discoverer of America.

A beautiful homage to him can be found at this site, This man was made of the stuff our country was built upon: loyalty, devotion, bravery, humility, compassion, and great faithfulness to the Mother Church. He is an excellent example for our future priests.

God bless Fr. McGivney, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Feast Day: St. Mary Magdelen

Today is the Feast Day of St. Mary Magdelen. I have always been touched by her story because her story can truly be our story. She was a wounded woman, filled with agonies brought on by the seven demons Jesus Christ expelled from her. Can you imagine the peace she felt once those demons were gone? The sense of safety she felt as she realized she was held in the palm of God's hand? No wonder she anointed Jesus with perfume and washed His feet with her hair.

I can only imagine her self-loathing before she met the Messiah. The shame, the guilt - all washed away by His words and the divine power of forgiveness. She is a reminder to us all that no matter how deep we fall, no matter how far away we've gone, we have an Advocate in heaven who implores us to come home, and rest in Him.

St. Mary Magdelen is the patron saint of those who struggle with sexual temptation, for druggists, hairstylists, and reformed prostitutes. And for contemplatives. Quite a group!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Catholic By Choice

I really liked this article by Deacon Keith Fournier from Catholic Online.

I have come to a conclusion, we need to do more than simply report on the dissenters who seek to change the Church rather than change themselves. We need to respond with an informal coalition, perhaps called “Catholics by Choice”; representing Catholic Christians who knowingly choose to embrace the fullness of the Christian faith found within the full communion of the Catholic Church with gratitude, fidelity and evangelistic zeal. I am one of those Catholics and I invite the global readers of Catholic Online who share this desire to consider a response to this newest effort to dissent from the Church.
Deacon Fournier put into words something I've been thinking about ever since my return to the Catholic Church. When I first returned, I was unaware of the deep, dividing lines between the liberal and conservatives. I truly wasn't sure which side I fell into. On one hand, I appreciated the attempts from some liberals to make the Catholic faith more accessible. On the other hand, I was grateful for the conservative approach toward maintaining the integrity of the faith. Deacon Fournier pondered this in his article:

The Church is not some “thing” which we try to “fix” or have our “issues” with or which we try to “change” by remaking it into our image. The Church is a communion with the Trinity in and through Jesus Christ and with one another in Him. Living in that communion we are called to love the world as He does. Through our Baptism the Church became our mother, the privileged place in which we live our lives in Christ. To perceive, receive and live this reality requires a continuing conversion.
I love this. Deacon Fournier placed the emphasis exactly where it should be - on communion with the Trinity. When we are drawn closer to God, we are transformed. When we are transformed, allowing God to remove our fears and self-centered desires; we see the world - and the church, much differently. We start to look around at our brothers and sisters in Christ and realize that there may be differences (which are often no more than preferences), we are still One Body and should endeavor always to love one another within that understanding.

Long ago, I studied the concept of feminine submission and was greatly influenced by the great missionary and teacher, Elisabeth Elliott. Elisabeth wrote a book to her daughter, Let Me Be a Woman, and discussed the issue of submission. This certainly is not an easy topic for women, but one that has fascinated me over the years, especially in light of the sweet fruit that results from obeying it. I remembered discussing it with some other women who responded to the biblical admonition, "Submit to your husband." One woman remarked, "Women have it easy. We're called to submit to our husbands but our husbands have the responsibility to submit to God!" In other words, a woman could fully submit to her husband, even if her husband was making some wrong choices according to God. In the end, the woman is faithful to what was required of her but the man would have to answer to God for his rebellious heart.

We are all called to submit to the will of God. And, we are called to submit to leadership:

Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Heb. 13-17 RSV)
Did you catch the last verse? "Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly..." Why joyfully? This would be an account of the Body of Christ being obedient and trusting their leadership. If they were sad, it would be because they were trying to lead an unruly bunch who had nothing but their own stubborn hearts that prevented them from trusting in God. I know which group I want to belong to.

Submission is not easy for anyone. We all have our own thoughts on the way we think things should be. I'm definitely including myself in this assessment. I have strong opinions (As any of you who has read my blog before would know!) and I'm not afraid to voice them. But in the quiet of my heart, after the passion cools, I examine myself in prayer. I know that all too often, my opinions are nothing more than judgements upon others and a frustration that they don't see the world as I do. That is when I offer myself up to God and ask for forgiveness, and ask for His compassion and wisdom to be poured upon me so that I can be a channel of His grace to those both in the world and in His Church.

So, I am a Catholic by choice. I am certain a Catholic who is more liberal would say they also are a Catholic by choice. My hope and prayer is that in the future, we can join together and trust that God knew what He was doing when He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, initiated His Church through St. Peter and the following lineage of popes, and established the safety of tradition through the Magisterium. It is all for a purpose. May we continue to pursue and maintain the integrity of His Church through and by the Trinity.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Episcopalian Church's Slide Into Collectivism

I freely admit I am an individualist. In fact, passionately so. Although I enjoy times of fellowship with friends and families, I get pretty cranky if I don't have my "alone time." I was single until I was 39 years old and happily found a man who respects my need to be alone at times.

Artists will understand this need for solace. Indeed, it is necessary as air if we are to create. There must be time spent in solitude so as to hear the muse's call, or at the very least, mull over observations and thoughts that will lead to producing something of value. The United States of America was built by individuals who followed their hearts and created something unique and lasting. They learned to hone their vision into something that would benefit both their immediate families and the surrounding community. To experience success in executing that vision and finding profit was one of the greatest joys known to man.

How does this relate to who we are in Christ? And what does it have to do with the Episcopal church? Quite a bit, actually. Recently, the Episcopal church had their 76th General Conference, presided over by Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. During her opening speech, she said this:

The overarching connection in all of these crises has to do with the great Western heresy – that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God. It’s caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus. That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of all being. That heresy is one reason for the theme of this Convention.

I understand what she is trying to say but her choice of words were unfortunate. She is giving the impression that I alone cannot be saved by admitting that I am a sinner and surrendering to God for His grace and mercy. Somehow I need "more." How she can justify this Biblically is beyond me.

Scripture says that faith without works is dead. As Christians, we know that coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ is only the beginning of a life lived in obedience to God. But only God knows a person's heart. It is not up to Jefferts Schori to say whether a person is truly saved or not. Obviously, within her definition - a person can only be "saved" if they join identity politics and agree to a worldly system of collectivism; where the claims of a group supersede the claims of individuals.

From all the years of studying Scripture, I do not see such a view supported. Nor do I see a success of this approach in the history of our country. It is one thing to say I may need my neighbor. It is quite another to say I must need my neighbor. The former assumes a choice in the matter while the latter removes it. Remove my choice and you've removed my freedom.

Americans have long been accustomed to all sorts of wild opinion, but the common response has been, "It's a free country. She can say what she wants." or "He can believe whatever he wishes." But we have a bit of a dichotomy within the Gospel. We have been freed from the bondage of sin but yet we are required to obey the truth. The truth is that we must love one another, forgive one another, serve one another. In loving God, we are to be generous with the poor, caring for the widows and orphans. We are to reach out to a dying and hurting world with the Good News. In each of those circumstances, Christians are joyfully responding to God's call upon their life.

But within any group or organization's insistence that we must do something; is when collectivism sneaks in and oftentimes leads a nation down a very destructive path. That path only leads to bondage and slavery - not freedom. And for anyone, let alone a Bishop of a main denomination, to boldly proclaim that Christians cannot look at themselves as being "saved" unless they are involved in some type of pseudo-cultural-political-backscratching session - is heresy.

We are called to be the salt and light to this world. Many times, it means enduring criticism and hatred in order to fulfill the Great Commission. But it does not mean capitulating to a culture that demands allegiance only to man's capability to earn his own salvation by placing a group's needs above his own. It is ludicrous to claim the Gospel is only a social justice mandate, effectively neutralizing its power to transform an individual into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Jesus taught groups but discipled individuals. He continuously asked individuals what they wanted and then met their needs. He challenged individuals to step out in faith, to believe and trust in their heavenly Father. He certainly did not say to His disciples, "Only by working together will you all be saved." As I said, it is a dichotomy. We are the "Body of Christ," working together to be His witnesses upon earth. But yet there is something not right about using it to justify catering to groups who hate God.

A slippery slope has occurred with the ordination of Gene Robinson, a practicing gay. Now the door is being pushed wide open by the Episcopalian church to embrace any type of sexuality. Radical groups that promote the gay agenda are the types of groups Jefferts Schori has in mind when she talks against individualism.

I know that living my life as a Christian requires me to be in fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I will always struggle with the balance for my individual (almost hermit-like) nature and being available to serve within the Body of Christ. But sin is sin. Darkness has no fellowship with the light. What the Episcopal church is attempting, is to embrace sin and heresy in order to please the world.

Extremely dangerous. God help the faithful in this church and may He give grace to His servants to know when it's time to leave.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Not Everything Is Art: The Blurring of the Priesthood

When I led an artists group years ago, I remember having lively discussions with a few of the members about the definition of art. Some said that anything could be seen as art. My reply was, and still is, that there is good art and bad art, but the moment one tries to call "everything" art is the moment true art loses its identity.

We live in extraordinary times. More than ever, the world does not like clarity. Being "flexible" or fluid in one's views and choices has dominated both culture and public policy. Religion continues to be a thorn in the side of leftist politics precisely because it presents qualifications, standards, definition, and clear consequences. Such concepts do not square well with a world that rejects absolute truth. In the mind of the sinner, there is no such thing as truth, for with truth comes judgment. Either something is right or it is wrong. The idea that there is a "black or white" is highly repugnant to those who want to blur the lines in order to continue to live as they please. They want nothing to do with an accountability to a God they cannot see and worse - expects a sacrificial pursuit of selfish desires.

It is no surprise that some within the Catholic Church would like to "remove" a barrier within the church, which is between the ordained and non-ordained. From a recent article published by California Catholic Daily:

“’The way the Church is now is not the way it was meant to be,’ says John Hushon, a VOTF board member who serves as council’s co-chair. ‘The Gospels make it abundantly clear that Jesus envisioned a community that welcomes and encourages the gifts of all. The two-tiered clerical system that separates the ordained from the non-ordained was never meant to be, and it has caused enormous harm. Vatican II attempted to recapture the universal call to ministry, but this promise has not been fulfilled.’”

Read entire article: A New Church

I almost don't know where to start. "The two-tiered clerical system... was never meant to be?" Has this man read Scripture? Studied history? Or even studied corporate business structures? I'm no Ph.D., but his ignorance is breathtaking. Every structure - from football teams, to study groups, to large corporations, to church entities - all have distinct levels of leadership. Not everyone is the captain of the ship and hierarchies - whether Mr. Hushon likes it or not, exist for a reason. Put simply, leadership helps the group reach its goals.

I've been a member of churches where this distinction between the ordained and laity has been blurred. All the church was "the priesthood" and the pastor just happened to be chosen as the guy who stood up in front of the congregation each week. But he wasn't special. In fact, many times other staff members would give the Sunday teaching. Some called it the "leadership team" or "senior staff" - but the meaning was essentially the same. The people in those positions were there because they either fit the management profile or somehow caught the attention of other leaders. And, those faces changed on a regular basis. Some were "sent" to plant a church, some left on bad terms, some were pushed out when it was evident they weren't supporting the party line any longer.

Only within mainline denominations were the leaders carefully groomed for their positions. It isn't unusual for a non-denominational church to place immature people into positions of leadership. It also isn't unusual for this to occur with the "leader" having either little or no formal Biblical training.

I believe in distinctions. In fact, I believe they are necessary in order to avoid diluting the purpose of that which is defined. The priesthood is a prime example of this. Not everyone is called to the priesthood. Just St. Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians, If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? (1 Cor. 12:17 RSV) Even our own bodies testify to the truth that each part has a specific purpose, and within the Body of Christ; there can only be one head. Not many. One. We know this is Jesus Christ. But the head has one mouth and that mouth, in my estimation, is the priesthood.

When there are too many voices, there is confusion. Again, I experienced it and sadly, the consequences. I don't claim to have all the answers when it comes to exercising our spiritual gifts within the Body of Christ, but I am rather sure that all gifts are to fall under the headship of Christ and His chosen representatives. Of course we have spiritual gifts - but those gifts are to be used within the Body of Christ and within the world for His purposes; not our own. Too often, Christians have used their spiritual gifts as a way to empower themselves and gain influence over others. This runs completely counter to what the gifts are meant to bring to the church and society.

The priesthood helps guide and strengthen the church. There needs to be agreement within an authoritative structure in order to help the church reach its goals - which is why the Magisterium is so important. Healthy debate is expected and part of the process, but sooner or later, agreement needs to occur in order to proceed. Territorial skirmishes, grievances, and unforgiveness are just a few issues that arise when churches fail to clarify leadership's role.

Within the Catholic Church, we also have the Sacraments to consider, which can only be administered by the priest. Thoughts about what would happen if everyone could administer the Sacraments could perhaps be another blog entry. I suspect though, that if "everyone" could do it, it would cause a number of problems.

During this "Year For Priests," I think Pope Benedict XVI wanted us to realize that there is a distinction between the priesthood and the laity. And perhaps encourage us all to not only examine what it takes to be a priest, but what it takes to be the laity.

Monday, July 13, 2009

What I Love About Catholicism: Catholic Children

I know there have been many a discussion about children acting up in Mass or older ones wearing the equivalent of beachwear to church. But yesterday, I witnessed something that is a common sight when I attend our Traditional Latin Mass.

It seems as though the children are a little more on their best behavior during this rite. I suspect it's because they are surrounded by adults who are focused and engaged. Most children follow by example. What they see is usually what they imitate. At yesterday's Mass, I had a lovely family in front of me, five children and their parents. The father sat at one end and the mother on the other. The two youngest, who were the boys, were nearest the father.

I couldn't help but smile as I watched the father demonstrate certain acts to his son and nudged him if he wasn't following. As the father bowed during the part of the prayer, he gently pulled on his son's shirt sleeve to pay attention and do the same. His son, who looked to be around 8 years old, followed suit. All of the children were attentive and respectful, not fidgeting in their seat or otherwise show their boredom.

In our parish, we have a coffee & doughnuts time after Mass and it's a great time to catch up with everyone. Although the children run around together, playing and chattering as little ones do - there is a quick respectful, response if an adult tells them to quiet down.

It caused me to remember the last non-denominational ministry I was involved with and a few unpleasant experiences with some of the children. There is a unique, and in my opinion, unhealthy emphasis on elevating children as "special" because they are the future "Army of God." I support encouraging children, but yet I feel there is a line crossed when children are praised for their yet-to-be-seen potential without first teaching them the basics of discipline and respect. In other words, these children are spiritually spoiled.

They are raised to focus on "holding power" over the enemy but aren't trained on how to handle difficult circumstances. Not everything is "of the devil." Many times, God allows us to experience trials and sufferings so that we may be made more perfect in Christ. Catholic children are taught this. (At least within traditionally Catholic schools.) Catholic children are also taught how to respect the Holy Sacrifice of Mass. Even within the "New Mass," most parents try to train their children to be silent and pay attention to what is occurring at the altar.

When I worked as a church secretary at the non-denominational church, one of the pastors came by for a visit (we had two locations at that time) and brought his two young sons. I love children and took a small break from my work to walk outside to where they were sitting in the car with the windows rolled down. I conversed with them a bit until the older one (who was around six years old) suddenly demanded, "Don't you have some work to do?" I was slightly shocked, but realized his father was pretty demanding himself, so it was understandable he probably overheard those types of questions. However, I was also saddened as I realized there was no way I could share with this pastor what his son said because he would see nothing wrong with it. In fact, children in that ministry were often praised for such boldness.

I can't imagine a Catholic child saying such a thing. And if they did, I feel fairly confident that their parent would be mortified if they heard of it and promptly chasten the child. There is just something about a Catholic child that makes him stand apart. Perhaps its the sacraments, or maybe Catholic schooling. But I believe a large part of it is due to those Catholic parents nudging and prodding their little ones to straighten up and fly right.

This training has many benefits. As I grew older, I could tell when an adult had a good upbringing. They weren't spoiled or self-centered. And very often, they were from Catholic families.

So if you're a parent and you wrestle with your children each week, or even if your children are well-behaved but you wonder if anything is sinking in - trust in the Lord. He is blessing your children in ways you do not know and it will be a legacy they themselves give to their children when they become parents.

God bless you for going to church as a family and God bless our Catholic families!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Introducing #FrFriday on Twitter!

Okay. I'm a little late getting this out but I've been brainstorming ways to keep focused on "The Year For Priests." I created my Ning site called "The Catholic Priest Appreciation Network (and if you're not a member, why not?!! Let's help create a grateful environment for the priesthood!). But I really want to brainstorm with more people, which is why I'm hoping more will join the site, plus take advantage of the hashtag #FrFriday on Twitter.

What is the purpose of this hashtag? To celebrate a priest, or even a seminary, if you'd like. Whoever it may be. So my first #FrFriday tag will be for my parish priest, Fr. Kevin Lutz of Holy Family. He is faithful to the Magisterium, constantly encourages his flock to place their trust in God, is funny, warm, and so lovable. After being away for so many years, I could not have asked for a finer priest. In fact, many who leave Holy Family to move out of state often say how they miss Holy Family and Fr. Lutz.

Fr. Lutz has truly created a very special community at Holy Family. He is a very busy priest, but finds time to teach Bible studies and especially helped me through the annulment process, making sure I was able to receive the Eucharist on Easter Sunday this year.

Fr. Lutz, God bless you richly!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI Encyclical

I've never been one to read papal encyclicals, but I want to start doing so. I really like Pope Benedict XVI on many levels and when he makes a point, I want to get it. It seems this one is about the world's economic state. I love how Pope Benedict continues to emphasize the human component of making decisions. Although I'm a capitalist at heart, it has deeply concerned me how many major corporations are eager to offshore their business in order to give the stockholders a few more thousand dollars. Meanwhile, real Americans with real families lose their jobs to some factory in Malaysia, thus taking away their income which could have been spent in our country's economy.

I'll probably add more later as I sift through the encyclical. (It's long!) Feel free to add your thoughts in the combox.

The Pope's Encyclical and the Foundation of the Economy

Monday, July 6, 2009

Carol Marin: You're Wrong

I just read this morning an astonishing piece from The Chicago Times about the Vatican's investigations of American convents. Written by Carol Marin, it drips with superiority toward Catholicism, as though this age is the first that has directly collided with truth.

An excerpt:

Rome, according to the New York Times, is "quietly conducting two sweeping investigations of American nuns, a development that has startled and dismayed nuns who fear they are the targets of a doctrinal inquisition."

Just when you thought Catholic bishops couldn't find another way to infuriate the flock, darn it, they've done it again.

Both probes were reportedly initiated by Conservative prelates unhappy that American nuns are not sufficiently toeing the line of Catholic orthodoxy, not wearing habits, not living in convents and not keeping their mouths shut about the concerns of women in a modern world.

Don't these sisters know their place?

Carol Marin is only one of many who erroneously believe that the life of a woman religious is primarily about bringing "peace and justice" to the world. It's not. It's about a woman hearing the call of God upon her life to separate herself even more from the world in order to serve Him. Serving their Spouse, Jesus Christ, requires trust and obedience. But what are they to obey? The ever-changing whims of the world, determined to live in darkness while denying God? Or are women religious to obey the call to a higher spiritual life, continuing to extend the light that will draw the world to Him?

The snark of Marin with her smug "don't they know their place" only exposes her outdated style of feminism. In her world, it's evident that women who follow the Magisterium are nothing more than dumb cows, lumbering toward whatever direction they're herded. Conversely, with that short judgement she also presumes that if you are a "thinking women," then of course you must dissent with the Magisterium. To which I say, baloney.

Marin doesn't realize that Christians are called to a life of sacrifice and self-denial. In case she missed it, I'll make it clear: It isn't about 'my' needs, Carol Marin. It isn't about whether I should be ordained as a priest, have the 'right' to have an abortion if I want, or pursue a deviant life of sexuality. It's. Not. About. Me. In fact, the day I committed my life to Christ was the day when I handed over the keys to Him and said, "You drive." My job from then on was to trust that God knew the best routes to take me to the destinations He planned for me.

I get so weary of these types of articles because they deliberately obfuscate the true meaning of being a Christian. Feminists, and God help us, "Christian" feminists - continue to get it wrong again and again but yet rarely are they engaged in the public arena. And when they are, the media delights in painting a woman's opposing view as being "backward" and ignorant of today's societal needs.

Marin goes on. (My responses are in red):

There can be good reasons for the church to conduct a study of its nuns. Their numbers are declining fast. Their communities are shrinking. And we all could, in whatever work we do, profit from studying how well we're performing. (Marin failed to do due diligence. Convents such as Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, showed 36 in the picture, 8 of them looked to be novices. Why is it the more orthodox orders don't seem to be struggling as much with their communities? Ever ask that question, Carol?)

But frankly, these investigations are really about dissent in the Catholic Church and how to stop it. You know, women's ordination, homosexuality, birth control, abortion and celibacy. (So what if it is? If someone is a Catholic, let alone a religious, and not only do they not agree with the Magisterium but seek to lead others into dissension - you don't think the Vatican should be concerned? The Vatican has the responsibility for teaching the truth. If these nuns who are in such dissent do not or cannot agree with the Magisterium, they're in the wrong place. They should have left the Catholic Church long ago and joined the Unitarians.)

And this process is nothing more than an assertion of control. (Wrong. It's the promotion and fidelity to truth. Only someone who is hardheaded and unrepentant would mistakenly believe this is an issue of control. It is an attempt to reconcile those who are in error with the Church.) Because the conclusions of the studies will stay confidential, the sisters may never know the outcome. But just by conducting the probes, the bishops are warning the sisters to sit a little straighter in their chairs. (Poke, poke.)

Am I missing something here? Were the recent, awful church scandals about nuns? Don't think so. (Sigh. Now Marin completes a neat twist with her rusty pen and stabs it into a completely different topic. By comparing a justifiable examination by the Vatican into the lives of convents with the sexual abuse cases of the past, Marin childishly tries to shift blame. Which is ridiculous. Pope Benedict XVI has continuously addressed the tragic situation and the Catholic Church is working to remedy the situation. And again - do due diligence, Marin. Ever heard of sexual abuse of women by nuns? Didn't think so.)

Too bad that Marin only had an 84-year old nun to consult for this story. Maybe she was running behind on her deadline but I suspect she went into the story with her mind made up. Little things like centuries of tradition and the Scripture don't fit her narrative. Only by framing the conversation by placing women (once again) as victims of the Big Bad Church in Rome would she be able to vent her misplaced irritations. Sad.


Last night, I came across John Powers' article "She's At It Again: Ms. Marin at the Ministry of Media Manipulaton." Powers is the President of the Chicago Daily Observer. I think he nailed it by noting the commenters were better informed than a journalist working for a major newspaper.

An added thought:

Carol Marin presumes much when she says:

Just when you thought Catholic bishops couldn't find another way to infuriate the flock, darn it, they've done it again.

In this instance, she believes her own press. Assuming that Catholics are "irritated" by their bishops, she again shows her bias toward church leadership. (And this, yet, during the "Year For Priests" which was recently announced by Pope Benedict XVI.) Perhaps from Marin's view she thinks Catholics are "infuriated," but from my vantage point - they are relieved. From the conversations at my parish and Catholic communities online, I continue to hear "Thank God the Vatican is finally stepping in." These Catholics for many years have seen their faith continue to be ridiculed, minimized, and mocked at times by those who supposedly took vows to uphold the continuity of it. Mixing Eastern Mysticism with Christianity doesn't work. The two do not dance well together and unfortunately, it is taking the strong arm of the Vatican to separate them.

If I ever spoke to Carol Marin, I would gladly explain why I feel so strongly on this subject. My weak spiritual formation was the direct result of Nuns Gone Wild. I know they meant well at the time, but the effects of their experimentation with pop-psychology, wrongheaded attempts at ecumenism, and dabbling with Eastern mysticism (and for some - a sympathy toward witchcraft) - together failed to educate at least two generations of Catholics about their Catholic identity. Many left the Catholic Church as a result. As for me, I couldn't toss a peanut in a non-denominational church without hitting at least three "ex-Catholics." So, yes. I feel very strongly about this topic.

Today I will deliberately stop any nun who is wearing her habit and thank her for her service. The wearing of the habit is now a sign to me that a nun understands her vows. To me, it is a beautiful sign and one the world sorely needs. Enough with the frustrated nuns who have turned sweet wine into vinegar. For all of their insistence that the Vatican allow them their games, they have ended up with the smaller team and quite frankly, fewer want to play in their league.

Meanwhile, those who are faithful to the Magisterium are realizing that at the bottom of the ninth, with all bases loaded - they've got a major player at the plate who will rock the house for them. Plus, there is a small but growing number of women waiting to join the team with their eyes on the prize - Jesus Christ.

I couldn't have returned to the Church at a better time.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Light Happy Thoughts

I've nothing heavy-duty for today. Both my husband and I had the day off and we've been relaxing, for the most part. A good chunk of my morning was taken with computer "catch-up" with Windows updates. (I hadn't updated in quite a while and the process took about three hours to complete.)

Then I played around with doing a screencast, which I'll be working on over the next few days. I love audio/visual stuff!

Tomorrow we have a family picnic, which I'm looking forward to. I need to cut up lots of strawberries and some angel food cake for a trifle I'll be bringing for dessert tomorrow. I'll try to remember to take some photos. I love trifles! They're a perfect summertime treat with all of their cakey-creamy-fruity goodness.

I wish you a wonderful Fourth of July and hope you and your family share good food, fun, and enjoy the freedom that was won by our forefathers. :-)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Catholicism and Confession: The Perfect Antidote to Narcissism

Yesterday I caught part of the Catholic radio show, "Open Line," hosted by Barbara McGuigan on Tuesdays. She was interviewing a doctor about narcissism. Barbara rightly lamented how tragic it was for a narcissist to be unable to truly give or receive love. I also agreed with her that with the grace of God, anyone can change.

She mentioned that she was going to have Dr. Keith Campbell on her show soon, co-author of The Narcissism Epidemic: Living In the Age of Entitlement. I am well aware of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as part of a cluster that includes borderline, histrionic, and antisocial personality disorders. (You often run into these types of personailities at the top level of organizations.) Those who are narcissistic really do act as though the world revolves around them. They have no empathy for anyone else and require excessive admiration. It is often called "the god complex" because the person believes they have unlimited power. Wikipedia even said it was closely linked to self-centeredness, which made me laugh. (Ya think?!!)

Since the Sacrament of Confession is still on my mind, I've been mulling over its spiritual treasures. I was thrilled yesterday when I was able to get an appointment to have my confession heard before attending a special weekly Low Mass in the morning. I really didn't want to wait another week. That's how awful I felt and remorseful that I had missed Sunday's opportunity to go. I don't particularly 'love' confession. But I love what it does. I love the fact that God gives me this opportunity to repent and get it out in the open. It is truly a grace the Holy Spirit imparts to us to feel genuine sorrow and regret over our sins - and the only remedy is God's forgiveness.

But going even deeper, it is a gift to be released from our self-centeredness. I don't think it is coincidental that our society's focus on self (which has led to a sense of entitlement and narcissism), has seeped its way into the church. It is perfectly understandable why there are usually no lines for confession or why in many Catholic parishes, this sacrament has been relegated to a therapy session.

Quite simply, we don't want know we've sinned. We don't want to admit that what we did was wrong.

We don't want to be judged. We are ashamed and embarrassed. "How could I have done that, and call myself a good Catholic?" We know deep down inside that we messed up and believe me, I am probably the world's greatest escape artist when it comes to avoiding taking responsibility for my own sin. It is so easy to justify it, rationalize it - call it anything but what it truly is - an abomination in God's eyes.

Contrasting this to the culture of narcissism, I once again thanked God for my Catholic faith. Who else is going to hold you accountable and tell you the truth? Believe me, there are very, very few non-Catholic churches who do this. Last night, I discussed it again with my husband. I related a conversation I had with my brother, who grumbled, "Who does the priest think he is? Forgiving sin? God forgives my sin!" I told my husband, as I told my brother, that of course God forgives sin, but we are instructed in the Bible to confess our sins to one another. This hardly ever occurs within the framework of a non-denominational church. And if it does, too often it becomes grist for the rumor mill as others pass along a person's sin under the guise of "sharing a prayer request."

Something breaks in us when we admit that we made a mistake. Our pride, of course, and the illusion that we are gods. The world doesn't revolve around us and our nice, plumped-up "Oprah-cized" egos are suddenly pierced as we recognize how far we can be from God's purpose for our lives. It is the mother of all "reality checks" and I know I need it more and more.

I recently purchased the "iConfession" application from the iTunes store for my iPhone. (Funny how many "I's" are in there, isn't it?) I really love this application. It has the explanation for confession, prayers, a fair "Examination of Conscience" (I think the one my 1962 Roman Missal is better), and the Act of Contrition. I have been asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to me my sins more and He has been faithful. My confessions are starting to improve and I am becoming more aware of sin.

This, to me, is the point of confession. It isn't enough to simply ask for forgiveness, but to seek a complete 180 degree turn from it. Again, only by God's grace do we have the strength and wisdom to turn away from sin and toward Him. But first, we need to be focused on Him. Focusing on God and not on self is a pretty big challenge as we live in an increasingly narcissistic society. I believe going regularly to confession helps.

I admit there is a part of me that enjoys throttling my fleshly desires. And do you know why? Because those desires is what the devil wants. The devil wanted to be God and tried to place himself about Him. When I nail that squirmy, whiny, part of myself that tries to scurry into darkness, I know I am in essence identifying the evil -yes, evil - the part of me that wants to rebel against God. I then say, "Oh, no you don't. You're coming with me to confession. We're going to have it out and by the end, you're leaving. You've overstayed your welcome, anyway and besides, you're taking too much of my time."

At least I'm getting to the point where I want this sin gone. Before I used to coddle it and plead with it to leave. Not with the Sacrament of Confession. Admit it. Repent. Rinse. Repeat.