Monthly Archives: January 2012

Understanding — as a Catholic woman

With all of the controversy going on right now over the health insurance law and how the law violates Catholic beliefs, many things have been going through my mind.  Tonight, at a class at church titled “Catholicism” by Fr. Robert Barron, we discussed the 4 marks of the Catholic Church.  The four marks are one, holy, catholic and apostolic. One part of the discussion caught my ear and sent my own thoughts off on a tangent.  When we discuss the 4th mark, apostolic, we talk about how the bishops today can trace their direct line back to the apostles.  We can also say that even the priests, through the laying on of hands by the bishop during their ordination, also ties the priests back to the apostles.  My thought was that the priests and the bishops are all men.  This is what Christ started Himself by choosing men to be His 12 disciples and I see the strength and wisdom in this teaching and am not trying to argue against it.  Rather, where my thoughts went on tangent were with the way that I was raised as an American Catholic woman and how that experience raised walls between myself and the Church.

When I was growing up in the aftermath of Vatican II, there was so much confusion as to what the Church believed that we, the children, were taught very little about our faith.  The main tenets that were part of our classes were the belief in the Trinity and that Jesus loved us.  There was little to no teaching on sin and I distinctly remember being told that when it came to morality, it was up to me to form my own conscience and then make an informed decision for myself.

So, as a young woman being raised during this time, I was not taught respect for priests or for the hierarchy of the Church.  In fact, I distinctly remember instances where I was taught by the actions of others that the Church would bend the rules if you either paid enough money or went to the right person in power.  That it was a political arena, not much different than civil politics.

I also remember being raised believing in ERA.  ‘Women can do anything a man can do.’  ‘Women can do anything they set their mind to.’  ‘Women are no different than men and we need to stand up for what we believe in and not let a man control us.’  I also remember being taught that a man was not trustworthy.  Men cheat on women and were easily manipulated to doing what you wanted by playing the ‘sex’ game piece.  Because of their vulnerability to our feminine wiles and their need for sex, men are weak.  I am sure you have heard the saying, “Men will be men.”  (of course, this wasn’t said in a complementary way, but as an acknowledgement of this sexual weakness.)  Needless to say, this drastically affected my view not only of the men around me but of the priests and bishops too.

As I think back to the newspaper article that was in the local paper this past Saturday, I can’t help but think that the women who were interviewed for the article could have been me but for the grace of God.  In fact, if that article had been written even 22 years ago, that could have been me saying those things verbatim.

All this is to say that maybe what we need to do as a Church is to understand who it is within the Church who doesn’t understand the teachings of the Church on contraception and abortion.  Then, with humility for the role the Church had in NOT educating my generation, humbly and openly seek to engage this segment of our population in an open and honest dialogue as to WHY the Church teaches what it does and HOW it is the truth.  This teaching needs to come from those of us who have fought this particular demon within ourselves and have come to a peace and balance with it in our own lives.  Those who are not 100% in support of the magisterium and what the Church teaches (ie. some of the more liberal Catholic women who can be very vocal within the Church) should NOT be the ones to do this.  I also do not think that a priest can do this well either unless he establishes first a level of trust with the woman.  For a woman like who I used to be, would not open her heart and her mind to a male who might be trying to gain control over her.  A woman like who I used to be would not trust any man to know what is right or wrong for her.  Because, a woman like who I used to be, has been hurt by a man, … or two, … or three, … or more.  And even possibly, a woman like who I used to be has been hurt not only by these men, but also by a priest.  So, to move beyond that pain and that lack of trust, there needs to be a great understanding, an unfathomable mercy and above all, the infinite power of the saving Grace of God.

Through a gift from God, those 3 components helped me.  Now, we need to reach out and offer them to others.

Today’s Gospel reading from Mark is about Jesus calling the Legion of demons to come out of the man by the tombs.  We also need to call the demons out of those around us who have been consumed by the demons of anger and bitterness to the teaching authority of the Church.  Through calling out of the demons which are preventing them from seeing and understanding the teachings of God and of the Church, may we heal those who have been victimized by the circumstances of their times.  Only then, can we heal.

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standing strong

The news lately has been pretty frightening.  Sometimes when watching the news, I wonder whether my family, a few friends, and a handful of others are the only sane people around.  How can I know so many people who do and believe good and yet there still be such evil in this world?

I was terribly afraid when Obama was elected as President.  I remember being afraid when Bill Clinton was elected and praying for guidance in the coming years as well as a conversion for him.  Well, the conversion didn’t happen, the morality of our country sunk to a new low, but we did survive.  When Obama was elected, I didn’t pray for the same thing.  I prayed for deliverance.  Deliverance from evil was my prayer for I saw no good coming from his term in office.

Since he became President, he has not shown me anything but more fear due to his stances on the basics of my beliefs — as human beings, God created us good.  BUT, God’s ways are better than ours and we need to follow Him to truly know good.  Obama doesn’t understand this.  He is of the relativistic culture who believes that everyone should be able to do what they want when they want.  So, to this end, he “says” he is righting a wrong and instituting health insurance for everyone.  But, this health insurance is more like a national health insurance than our current free economic choice for health care and the choices are being taken away from us regarding what we can and cannot receive in regards to our care.  I agree that the health care industry needs to be overhauled, but to have the government take that on when they can’t even learn to live within a budget and are going to bankrupt our country?  How are they qualified to take care of health insurance?  With the new mandates, the Obamacare plan will force ALL companies who hire and provide health insurance within certain parameters to pay for all items Obama feels important.  The issue at hand is that this insurance will cover things that as a Catholic, I see as murder.  How can I give my money to something that is going to pay for the murder of a human being?  It makes my skin crawl to think of it!

But, if this law is not overturned, that is exactly what will happen in Aug 2013.  The Bishops of the US are standing up and asking all to pray the St. Michael’s prayer to defend us and protect us from the great evil.  I pray that by fighting this, that we will prevail.  But, a large part of me is afraid.  For this evil is more than just one person and is more than just one law.  This evil is in most of society today including many who call themselves Catholic but who don’t understand or follow the teachings of the Church.  This isn’t just the contraception battle all over again.  This is about life and whether I will stand up for what is right or if I will just bow down in fear.  As afraid as I am and most of us are, we have to stand firm.  If we don’t, we turn our backs on God.  I am really feeling the need to read the story of Noah again.  Maybe it is time to build an ark?

I look at it this way.  If I was robbed at gunpoint right now and all the robber wanted me to do was to give him the money to pay for his girlfriend’s abortion, would I do it?  NO WAY!  So, why would I not speak up about this outlandish law which is asking the Catholic Church to do the exact same thing.  We are the Church.  The Church isn’t a building.  The Church is the people.  We won’t agree.  We will stand strong in the ark of the Catholic Church!

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Make the most of me….

Today (actually, more like the last week),  has been a day of contemplation.  It is hard to put my finger on what, if anything, is wrong.  When I look at the day, I can’t see anything out of line.  School this morning with the girls went fine.  Staff meeting at the clinic went according to the agenda.  Errands and conversation with a friend this afternoon was nothing earth shattering.  Hubby even did part of the evening activity driving so that I could be home.  So, I can’t put my finger on the “what”, but I can tell you that I just don’t feel as confident or as “up” as usual.

I do know that earlier this week, a situation occurred that brought on the feeling of fear.  Not just fear, but an old fear from my childhood and teenage years, that has lain dormant most of my adult life with only rare appearances.  But, this fear is one that unsettles me and makes me very introspective.  It especially makes me doubt myself.  On top of that feeling of fear, I also talked with two very good friends who are having problems within their marriages and are in the process of divorce.  I heard this same fear within their voices and again, I was unsettled.

Today, while in this reflective mood, I came across a facebook post with a link to Marie Miller’s new song, “Live”.  When I clicked the link, I found that I really liked the song, but kept remembering another song of hers, “You Make the Most of me”.  So, I clicked on the link and sat back and listened to it several times in a row.  I love this song and listen to it whenever I am feeling overwhelmed and weak like I am tonight.  It helps me to remember that I am not on my own.  The good in my life isn’t my doing.  It is Him.  Only through His grace, can I be the person I want to be.

Here are the words to the song.  I encourage you to listen.  It might help you gain perspective too.  Check it out at www.mariemiller.net.

On my own, I’m afraid to step out on the sea.
All alone, no mountain will move for me.
But you breathe your life into my soul.
You take away the impossible.

I can feel your mystery moving in my hands and feet
Leading me through disbelief, finding strength when I feel weak.
You make the most of me. You make the most of me.

With you here, I see sight return to the blind.
When you’re near, I can watch the dead come to life.
You shine your light into our souls.
You make all things possible.

I can feel your mystery moving in my hands and feet
Leading me through disbelief, finding strength when I feel weak.
You make the most of me. You make the most of me.

When I don’t have the words, you will be my voice.
When I don’t understand, I will still rejoice.
You make the most of me. You make the most of me.

You make the most of me. You make the most of me.

I can feel your mystery moving in my hands and feet
Leading me through disbelief, finding strength when I feel weak.
You make the most of me. You make the most of me.

You make the most of me. You make the most of me.

This song has been running as a backdrop through my mind today.  So, when I sat down to read and reflect on today’s readings, it was with little surprise that I saw the following words of St. Paul to Timothy:

“For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.  So, do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God. “

You know…  Sometimes…  He blows me away with these little things that if I pay attention give me hope.  On my own, I am nothing.  But, with God?    “…with the strength that comes from God.”  He  “make(s) the most of me.”

(If you want to hear Marie perform live, come to The Behold Conference on March 10, 2012.  You can register and see more about the conference at  www.beholdconference.com.  I’ll be there to find out how God plans to make the most of me, will you?)

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relativism or truth?

Many great apologists have spoken about relativism.  Even Pope Benedict XVI has spoken out about it.  Yet, don’t we all get sucked into the vortex of the world around us each day which is all about relativism?  But, what exactly is this issue at its heart?

By definition, relativism is any theory holding that criteria of judgment are relative,  varying with individuals and their environments.  If we are saying that criteria of judgment are relative, we are saying that anyone can have their own criteria of judgment.  So, any issue at the heart of our society and at the heart of who we are as a human being is then only able to be judged on what that person believes the criteria should be based upon their environment and their experiences.

So, if I believed that it was more important for me to go clothes shopping because I am sick of my clothes versus going grocery shopping because there is no food in the house for my 5 children and husband — it would all be okay.  Because by my criteria, clothes shopping is so much more satisfying than buying groceries which will disappear within days.  It is all about what criteria I set as an individual.  Looking around the world today, it is very easy to see this principle in action.

Teacher’s today cannot discipline a student because the parent might believe that their punishment was too harsh and might sue the school.  In fact, when my own children were in the public school system, one of my daughters, then in 1st grade, cheated on a spelling test.  The teacher caught her cheating and took her paper from her making her put her head down on her desk during the remainder of the test.  Later in the day, the teacher called this cheating student, my daughter, to her desk to talk to her.  She asked her why she cheated to which my daughter replied that she wasn’t really cheating, she was just checking her word to make sure she had written it right.  So, the teacher gave her the spelling test orally and modified her grade from a 0% for cheating to a 100% for the oral grade.

When I got the note at home later that day explaining what had occurred from the teacher’s perspective, I was totally confused.  When I went into the school the next day, I asked some very pointed questions.

1. Did my daughter cheat?  Answer = yes.

2. Is the school policy such that if a student cheats on a school assignment, the grade for that assignment is 0%?  Answer = yes.

3.  Then why does my daughter have a 100% on her paper?  Answer = because she could tell me the words orally and I think that she is too young to know right from wrong.

What??!!  This teacher could then not understand why I demanded that she change my daughter’s grade back to a zero.  She actually had me put the request in writing for the file as it was against her judgement.  This teacher made a judgment based upon her own relative criteria and unilaterally overrode the school policy.  The saddest part is that even the principal didn’t see this as an issue when I discussed it with her later.

This situation happened 8 years ago and it still raises my blood pressure!  The sad thing is that it is just one example from the millions that are occurring everyday in the world around us.  And we wonder why our world and our country have the problems they have today with widespread corruption and a total disregard for the law.  Here in the state of Illinois, one of our “claims to fame” is that we have several former governors in jail for greed and corruption.  Even our government leaders are caught up in this lie of relativism!

As a Catholic, I believe that through our faith in Jesus Christ and in His Church, we find the TRUTH.  We might be surrounded by the fog of relativism, but we have a bright light shining in our eyes blinding us to the sin around us just as Saul was blinded by God’s light after being knocked off of his horse.  As Mark says in Chapter 16: 15-16,  “And he said to them: ‘Go forth to the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature. Whoever will have believed and been baptized will be saved.  Yet truly, whoever will not have believed will be condemned.’ ”  So, we go forth, holding fast to the light and truth of God and preach the Gospel.  All we can do is preach the truth and pray that they come out of the fog before it is too late.

 

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We are Jesus’ family!

Today’s Gospel reading is from Mark 3: 31-35.  The part that stands out today is the statement that Jesus makes that if we do the will of God, we are His brother, sister and mother.  This stands out for me today as I see the pictures now coming onto Facebook of the March for Life from yesterday in Washington DC and I read the scant news coverage of the event.  It truly saddens me that there are so many in this country who believe that abortion is wrong and yet the media is so skewed that none of this is printed.  With the exception of Wichita Kansas, I have not heard of one community who covered this event in their news coverage.  None of the national news stations did.  And when it was covered, it was more of a focus on those who were protesting the rally and were pro-choice and not on the phenomenal size of the group and the peaceful nature of the rally.

This is why this reading stands out today.  For, we must stand together to do the will of God.  Only then will we be able to be part of Jesus’ family.  And that is an awful lot more important to me than being a relativist who thinks that anyone can do or think what they want.  Murdering innocent lives because you wanted your fun without the responsibility is still murder.  Period.

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He is out of his mind.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus’ relatives thought he was out of his mind, possessed by the devil.  In reality, He wasn’t but they just didn’t understand what His mission was all about.  But, have you ever wondered if the devil really is working in our world?  When I was younger, even the mention of the devil used to scare me terribly.  Even now, I still am not totally comfortable with all of the realities of the devil around us.  But, I do know that the temptations and mind games to turn away from good that we are faced with daily come from the devil.   I also know from experience that when we start really turning ourselves more towards God and God’s will within our life, that the devil comes on even stronger in our lives.

I know this because whenever hubby and I are preparing a Theology of the Body talk, all kinds of things start going wrong.  We get into arguments, misunderstand each other and get angry.  We’ll have a set time to work on the talk and then something goes wrong so that we have little time to work on the talk preparation.  Many times, it feels like we are fighting an uphill battle against a storm and if we try to rest for even a minute, we will be swept away.

I love giving these talks.  When we do these talks, our marriage is strengthened and our beliefs are reinforced.  A light is lit within us and we ourselves are lifted up in the lifting up of our lives as we share with the couples who come.  And yet, the struggle to get to the actual talk itself is monumental.  It is a task that can be overwhelming at times.  It can be hard to remember during the struggle that the struggle is there because we are striving to fight the good fight and bring God’s plan to other couples who haven’t heard it yet.  It can make you think that you are wasting your time and can make you feel like the world is falling down around your ears.

This, I believe,  is the work of the devil.  These kinds of struggles don’t happen that often in every day life.  But, start reaching out to others to show them God’s plan, and the devil is determined to stop it.  It actually is very clear when I look back over the years that we have been giving the TOB presentations that there is a pattern to the battles.  But, knowing that there is a pattern and that this is the work of the devil doesn’t make the burden any lighter to carry.  So, this is when I cry out to God for the strength to carry on.  For on my own I am weak, but with Him I can do anything!

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vanity and humility

If anyone knows anything about Jesus, it is that He doesn’t like vanity but rather praises humility.  He Himself was very humble, even humble enough to take on the role of infant, being totally helpless and dependent on others for everything.  So, if we truly want to follow Him, why is it so hard to be humble ourselves?  It would seem to be a no-brainer.

Reality though is something totally different.  It is a battle almost as big as the battle that David fought against the Philistine.  No one thought he could beat him, but with cunning and skill, he did.  So, who is our opponent in this battle?  Vanity is the enemy.  So much  of the world around us compels us to act a certain way, to do our hair a certain way, even something as simple as showing love to others around us.  But, as Scripture says:  “All things are vanity!”

One case in point — teenagers!  Teenagers want to appear independent and like someone who has their act together.  But, even teens get scared and need hugged and reassured.  But, vanity in the way they think they are supposed to act, stops them from actively seeking out that which would make them feel better — a hug and affirmation from Mom or Dad.

So, as a mom, I have had to learn to be aware of the clues of those around me.  Sometimes a quiet ride home from practice might be just a chance for comfortable companionship.  Other times though, it is a smoke screen and the silence is not comfortable but with an edge to it.  This is not an easy skill and one that I am not fully proficient with yet.  But, I can claim bursts of awareness every now and then.  And pray for these occurrences of insight and awareness to be more often rather than less often.  But, to do it, _I_ need to first put away my own vanity and clothe myself in the humility of God so that I can be aware.  And that is the thorn among the roses.  To break through their cloak of vanity, I must first take my own off.  Ouch!  It sure can be painful without that shield protecting me from the pointed barbs that can be dished out.

But, humility and pain are okay if they help me gain their heart.

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challenges here

Today’s Scripture readings are one of the more challenging sets of readings so far this year.  The first reading is Samuel and Saul with Samuel explaining to Saul that God is not happy with him and he needs to wake up and smell the roses.  The Gospel readings are about when the people questioned Jesus as to why He and His followers weren’t fasting like the Pharisees and John’s disciples.  In both of these readings, you have figures who “think” they are doing what is right and have good excuses/explanations.  But, the reality is that is just the point.  God doesn’t want or need our excuses, explanations, or words.  He wants to see the action.  He wants us to be obedient to Him. Period. He wants us to trust Him even when it doesn’t make sense.  He wants us to choose His way even when it is hard and would be so much more fun or so much easier to go the other way.  He wants us to stop at the stop signs he has placed in our path and to turn to Him.

Doing this is the hardest thing I have ever been asked to do in life.  Our culture raises us to be strong, showing little to no weakness to others.  I know I was raised to stand strong and intelligently on my own two feet and to not just follow anyone who comes along, especially  just because he is a man.  🙂  (Yep, my mom was a staunch women’s libber and raised her 5 daughters to be strong women and not dependent on men.)  And yet, what this teaching of Christ is asking of us is to acknowledge that we are weak and that we need to submit ourselves to Him completely.  To His will.  To His love and care.  To totally and completely trust Him and His plan even if we don’t know what that plan entails.  This is my battle.  I choose God’s path.  But, along the way, I have to continually die to myself in order to stay on that path.  Sometimes, that need to die to self is not just a daily thing but an hourly and sometimes a ‘to the minute’ exercise.

Thankfully, it is possible through His grace.  For my strength is nowhere great enough to accomplish it once, let alone the countless times it will take.  Thank You Lord, for Your mercy and grace are enough for me!

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sitting with sinners…

Jesus was sitting with sinners and causing a stir.  For some reason, when I read that sentence in my head, it seems to have a country music beat.   Maybe it is because the Pharisee’s reactions to His eating with tax collectors and sinners is so over the top.  Kind of like a country music love song (sorry for having offended anyone who likes country music, just my take on it).    When I read that Jesus sat and ate with sinners, I rejoice and jump for joy!  Hooray!  There’s a chance for me!  For if he was a God who only hung with goody two shoes, I wouldn’t be one with whom He would even want to be caught dead in the same room!  This I know.  For I am weak, while He is strong.

Tonight, I had the awesome opportunity to attend a gathering of about 30+ other women with whom I am working to plan and coordinate the Behold 2012 Conference.  Behold is a conference that seeks to support the dignity and vocation of women.  The 2012 Conference theme is “From the Heart of God”.  The evening gathering started with Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and Sacramental Confession.  Wow!  What a way to start a gathering!  Acknowledging that in order to do His work, we must first cleanse our own souls and remember that we are there because of HIM.  We’re not there for our own glory or for the world.  We are there for Him, doing the work He sets in front of us.  So much of what we are handed in our lives isn’t part of our plan, but it is given to us to humbly take and do to the best of our ability.  We don’t always understand why we need to do it, but do it we must.

For we are all sinners sitting at the table and dining with Him.  Let the others talk and point along the way.  It just doesn’t matter what they think.  What matters is that ….He. is. with. us.

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rise, pick up your mat, and go home…

At the end of this Gospel reading (Mark 2:1-12), we find the phrase that I used as the title for today’s ramblings.  As I read this reading today, I realized that in my mind, I had automatically gone into auto-pilot as the reading is very familiar.  So, I made myself go back and read it again.  This time I was looking for something I hadn’t seen the first time through.  This particular phrase struck me.  Have you ever thought about what this man was experiencing?

So, I decided to read it again, but this time putting myself into the role of this paralyzed man.  First of all, being paralyzed must be terrifying.  Whenever I have lost the ability to move about easily due to a sprained ankle or hurt foot, I am SO conscious of how much I depend on being mobile. To be paralyzed would be devestating!  To have to depend on others all the time to get around would be hard to live with. The fact is obvious that this man is really not well as it took 4 men to carry his stretcher (which would be even more humbling).  And then, they were so concerned about this friend that they searched out Jesus and went to great lengths for Jesus to see and hopefully cure him.

So, to summarize, we know:

#1 He is paralyzed and not able to get around on his own

#2 He had wonderful caring friends who were concerned for him

#3 He obviously wasn’t doing well that his friends sought out a miracle for his cure

#4 His friends go to great lengths, even smashing through roofs to help him

Now, picture yourself as this man.  Laying there, unable to move on your own, dependent on others for most of your daily activity, but resting peacefully as possible on your mat.  Along comes four friends who pick up your mat and start carrying it out the door.  Down the road they go, jostling, bumping, traveling down the road to who knows where.  Then, when they arrive at their destination, there are so many people there that they can’t even get into the door.  (at this point, I picture myself trying to push a cart through Toys R Us before Christmas and getting bumped and jostled continuously)  Finally, one of your friends gets the bright idea of going onto the rooftop and lowering you down in front of Jesus.  So, they start working on getting you up onto the roof and then breaking through the roof without falling in themselves.  At this point, I think I would be wondering how I got involved with such crazy lunatics.  But, just then, one of your friends cries out that he has broken through and it is time to start lowering you down.  So, you feel yourself jostled around again and then feel yourself hanging and dropping lower and pray that you don’t crash to the ground!

But, then you are with Jesus and a peace comes over you so that all you can do is gaze on His face.  Then, just as you think He is about to cure you, some idiot in the crowd is trying to stop Jesus from doing anything because they think he is blaspheming.  So, your spirits fall once again thinking that this has all been for nothing.  But, then Jesus shows them and tells you to get up, pick up your mat and go home.  Hmmm, would I obey right away?  Or would I question it in my own mind?  I think I would be skeptical but yet hopeful for any possibility that I might haltingly just do what he said.

But, I guess the hardest part of this is to think of myself as just one who would get up, pick up my mat and just go home.  Without telling Christ thank you???  Without jumping for joy and celebrating???  Without any acknowledgement of my friends who struggled and sacrificed to get me there???  Without telling everyone around me all the good that I had experienced at Jesus’s command???  For those of you who know me, you probably know that the last one there would be my hardest trial!

But, that is what he did.  He rose, picked up his mat and went out.  No words.  No acknowledgements.  No celebrations.  No fanfare.  Just go home.  I pray that if I were ever face to face with Jesus that if he told me to go, I would.  But, I also know my weaknesses and somehow I think that would be the hardest thing of all to actually do.  But, then again, maybe that is just me.   Would you find it easy to just walk away?

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