Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The fantastical story of the prodigal son

There has been a lot of chatter about the parable of the Prodigal Son lately, and it usually ends with one group of people within the Church judging or insinuating that another group of people within the Church is a acting like the older brother.

Ouch. Nobody wants to be called the older brother. Every well-formed Christian knows themselves to be the Prodigal Son.

The truth of the matter is that I honestly don't know anyone who could rightly be identified as an older brother. The older brother was angry that his repentant younger brother was so easily forgiven by his father after squandering his inheritance. Even though his younger brother had been through hell and realized what unconditional love and joy he had rejected, the older brother could not overcome his own jealousy at the lavish feast that was prepared for his malnourished sibling.

So why would anyone identify another with such hateful behavior? I believe it stems from a deliberate twisting of scripture. Instead of reading the text in the light of the Church, our culture has become accustomed to falling into the habit of, "I'm going to find a text to support my view." In particular reference to the aforementioned trend, "Disagree with me, and I'll slam you with a biblical reference to a horrible character in one of Jesus' stories about love and redemption."

Shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't we be reading great texts, the Sacred Text being the greatest, and with the wise assitance of the Church fathers and Saints, hear the beckoning of the Holy Spirit in our own lives instead of going around, thinking ourselves to be brilliantly original, and assaulting people with our new take on Scripture? When we do this, we create a fantastical story about our own agenda that becomes unrecognizable from the original form.

It's a challenge to all of us in this weird modern culture. Pray, study, contemplate. Correct when necessary, and don't fall into the habit of holy-cloaked name-calling calling when words fail.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

These are my children

As I awake this morning, I am lying in bed and checking the world news. In doing so, I come across a picture of some displaced children sleeping on a blanket with pillows. They are wearing clothes that seem familiar. Two girls and a boy. They remind me of my children when they were younger. In fact, I have to restrain myself from thinking that they are my children. My children are safe at home with me. And yet, there they are, a picture of my children from not so long ago. These are my children. These are our children.

Sometimes I get the feeling that it is all too easy to dismiss what happens to other people in terms of "being thankful for what we have." While it is a good thing to be grateful for goodness in our lives, it is a blessed thing to feel sorrow for those who are suffering. Being a mother amps up the capacity to do this about a million percent. Anytime I see a picture like this, it beckons me to pray in such a way that I imagine God's loving arms embracing these children in fatherly protection. I see our Blessed Mother comforting the mother of James Foley in empathetic sorrow.

God, please heal our world. Grant us peace. Give us justice.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Reflections

From time to time over the past few years, my children have checked my blog. "Mom, when are you going to update your blog?" I thought it was cute how they still checked it, and I wondered about the fascination they had with reading it. I guess it became an opportunity to see their mother's words instead of just hearing them all the time. And perhaps I don't have the time during the day to phrase things exactly as I would in print. Writing is an exercise in slowing down thought, in being precise, in comtemplating. I have learned to cherish this process.

It reminds me of the technique used in Marriage and Engaged Encounter. As part of our marriage preparation, my husband and I were required to attend an Engaged Encounter weekend through our diocese. The format was similar to other youth retreats we had experienced, with one major difference. There was A LOT of writing involved, so much that people came out of their rooms shaking out the cramps from their hands. For some, the pain of writing cramps became indicative of a cramp of thought, an underdeveloped mental muscle having to bear the weight of the weekend's work. Tension aged the faces of couples who had not considered some of the deeper questions we had to confront. Much of their frustration, I'm certain, stemmed from the realization of marriage and what it was requiring from all of us, but I suspect that their inability to deal with these emotions directly realted to the fact that none of us had aquired the tools for reflection and transmission.

I love remembering these experiences because they now help guide me in instructing my children. I have been a full-time teacher for the past two years, and I think (at best) a part-time mother. Just recently, my husband was able to switch his employment, enabling me to stay at home with our children. After a nine-year hiatus, we will begin home schooling again next week. Much of their practical education will center around this lost art, the process of thinking and expressing. I thank God for this opportunity to reconnect with my children. Our world needs thoughtfulness, kindness, and eloquence. It needs self-sacrifice, dedication, and faith. In teaching our children in our home, we retreat from the world to find our place in the world. I'm thankful to have learned this lesson.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lenten update

I knew it was going to be incredibly difficult.

But I thought I would try it anyway. Giving up foods, drinks, television, etc. doesn't even phase me. But take away the comfort of my bed, and I become weak. Weak in a good way. Weak enough to know how addicted to comfort I really am, and how I might subtly prefer my own comfort to doing what God asks of me in my daily tasks.

So here I am this Lent. Giving up the one thing that I love...sleep...in order to "pummel my body and subdue it" so that I may grow in the dual call to charity, loving God and neighbor with a more perfect ardor.

How's it been going, you might ask?

Hmm....

Day one: Got up, prayed, blogged, felt really motivated, did everything well. I must say I was pleased with myself. Pride cometh...you know.

Day two: Got up, prayed, did some exercises, saw my husband still in bed, and decided to snuggle (after all, he does need my love to keep him warm). Fell back asleep. Blah.

Day three: Got up, prayed, drifted to sleep while praying, and gave up after 45 minutes of a painful battle of trying to stay awake. This is the day I realize how big of a nothing I am. Boy, can I relate to Peter and the Apostles in the garden. Here was their Lord, about to lay down His life for them and the whole world, and they couldn't even keep their eyes open. I bet they felt like real losers too!

Humility hurts.

Day four and beyond: I have since amended my Lenten sacrifice to rise at 5 am only during the week. Realistically, I need the weekends to recover. I have also found that praying first thing in the morning does not facilitate the waking up process, so I am adding a 30-minute burst on the treadmill to jolt me into action. Prayer will follow.Tried it this morning and it worked like a charm!

It's funny, because I once heard someone say that putting prayer first thing in the morning ensures that we are giving God our best. Clearly, my best was not happening then, so in keeping with the truth that grace builds on nature, I will go to God with a clear head AFTER I wake up my body.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

O happy Lent!

One of the things I've been wanting to tackle in my own life is discipline, so when I was discerning what my Lenten sacrifice would be, I kept that in the forefront of my mind. It's not enough to just do without sweets or coffee or anything like that. Lacking those things doesn't make me focus enough, and I usually find substitutes for them, anyway.

So this year, I am waking up at 5 a.m. each day during Lent. It might sound too simple, but for me it's a real sacrifice. I am usually up by 6:30 or so, and that is enough to get up and around before the kids go to school and I go to work. But that's not enough. I don't get time to spend in prayer when I wake up later, nor do I have time to collect my thoughts. At 5 a.m. no one is up. It's a built-in time for quiet reflection.

And mind you, God has a way of testing my resolve. In anticipation of my early awakening, I decided to get to bed early. Last night my husband and older children kept coming into the bedroom to try and find things, ask me questions, etc., so my "early" bedtime got pushed to about 11 o'clock. Additionally, my children are to the age where they mostly sleep through the night, but not last night. My 9-year-old daughter awoke at 3 a.m. with a fever and a cough that persisted through roughly 4:30, when I estimate was the time I was finally able to go back to sleep...for a half hour before my alarm went off.

At five o'clock, I had a profound conversation with God in which I asked Him if this sacrifice was really the one for me, given my crazy schedule, my five children, and my night-owl husband. The answer came back to me almost instantly...when was the last time you experienced the profound irony of God? Here I was doing the very thing that I had set out to do, to raise my heart and mind to God in the silence of the morning, and I was begging Him to release me from my promise.

I got it. Sacrifice. It's not supposed to be easy.

A blessed Lent to everyone! May we all share in the grace of Christ's passion through our Lenten sacrifices!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Celebrating marriage!


Last weekend, my husband was invited to speak in Altoona at St. Mary’s parish. It was a dinner event in celebration of marriage. He gave the keynote address, and I tagged along.

We had lived in Chippewa Falls about 12 years ago, and many of our old friends had come to join in the night’s festivities. What a wonderful surprise to be greeted by such wonderful familiar faces! More importantly, though, what a joy to see the gift of marriage alive in the union of the sixty or so couples who attended!

The most profound thing that I realized that night was that vibrant marriages are still thriving in our Church. Sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down by the oppressive cultural sludge that seems to be threatening our families daily, and that’s why it’s so important to have these events in which we come together as married couples. We need to see each other…to know that there are others who all feel also at times that they are the only ones who delight in the freedom of the sacrament of marriage, who enjoy the beauty of family life, and who strive everyday to live according to the moral teachings of the Church regarding contraception.

Yes, we exist! And we’re full life, love, and laughter. Sometimes I feel like shouting that from a rooftop, but maybe it’s just enough to BE. The fact that we ARE in the world, but not fashioned from the culture, the fact that we HAVE children, and the fact that we can still BE together despite the human tendency to prefer satiating our selfish desires…all of these verbs of BEING draw us to conclude that the real change happens not in acting, but in being, in resting in the beautiful truth that God’s plan for us comes not from our own actions, but in our willingness to rest in HIS action. It is beauty. It is peace. It is communion.

Our being married is action enough for God to use to unleash his love into the world. Our being parents is the instrument God uses to perpetuate the future of his Church. When we realize that God’s action is built on BEING, the course of action we must take in our world becomes clear. We are to do His will. We are to be His light to the world. It is in His plan, not ours, where we find the greatest power for transforming our world.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

SGK chose death

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live..." Deut 30:19
After watching the following news clip in which Karen Handel was interviewed about her role in the SGK - PP debacle, it became apparent to me that Susan G. Komen has indeed caved into the pressure of the culture of death, and they have reluctantly offered Handel to Planned Parenthood as the sacrificial lamb to seal the deal. Though Handel still sings the praises of the Komen organization, the distilled message is clear. Komen would prefer to exist as an organization of illusory support than to actually take a real stand for the health and well being of all women.


We cannot support an organization that would be willing to compromise so easily. They know about the Planned Parenthood controversy, and I would wage that they also realize the connection between the widespread services Planned Parenthood provides, namely contraceptives and abortion, and the increase in the risk for developing breast cancer as a result of these practices. The parallel between the figurative cancer of Planned Parenthood itself and the actual cancer it effectively perpetuates is profound, and I think that SGK was able to draw that connection last week.

As the procedure to remove the cancerous relationship began, SGK quickly realized that the disease had spread much more aggressively than they had thought, and that in order to save themselves they would have to make some sacrifices that they were simply unwilling to make.

They were presented with a choice. They could either downsize their organization and build it up again properly with the support of those who value life, or they could continue to exist with the cancer that would continue to slowly poison their organization from the inside out.

By reversing its decision to cut Planned Parenthood's funding, Susan G. Komen chose death, an agonizing death that will painfully and dramatically continue to eat away at their organization and all those who are affiliated with it.

They will never be able to fight cancer as long as they keep allowing it to fester within their own organization.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Children thrive on love

I wanted to share a little piece of heaven that my son gave to me today.

Last summer, my husband was speaking at the NACFLM conference at Marquette. While he was giving his three-hour workshop to train marriage leaders, I walked all five of our children down to the Milwaukee Public Museum, and we got to see some spectacular displays. My favorite was the old-fashioned town. The kids liked the Dinosaur IMAX movie.

When we got back, we still had some waiting to do, so we looked at all the table displays that were set up. My little four-year-old son spotted some matching buttons on a Marriage Encounter table that read "I love my wife" and "I love my husband." He asked me to read them to him. Then he smiled and said, "you and Daddy need these."

I hesitated because, let's face it, I do love my husband, but I don't know if I could wear a button that declares it to the world.

Nevertheless, there was no talking him out of it. I purchased the buttons...the set, because if I had to get one, so did my hubby. We brought home where they now sit in a bin of assorted items atop my dresser.

Today he found it and remembered what it said.

"Mommy, you need to wear this. It says, 'I love Daddy'. And you love each other."

He looked at me with the brightest smile, grinning ear to ear.

Children are thrilled that their parents love each other. It builds them up everyday to see Mom kiss Dad or to hear Dad say "I love you" to Mom. It reminds them that they are loved with an unbreakable bond, and it reveals to them the unquenchable fire of God's love for them.

Please share this with your spouse. We all need to be reminded about how our marriage relationship affects our families, our communities, our countries, our world. And pray for grace-filled marriages. We need them more than ever.

Friday, February 3, 2012

SGK to PP: "I'm not quittin' you!"

Just a few days ago, the Susan G. Komen organization announced plans to distance themselves from the long-standing relationship with Planned Parenthood. Many of us took this news to be an answer to prayers, and maybe it was, but maybe not in the way we expected it to be.

This morning SGK released this statement that seemed to indicate it is buckling under the bullying influence of Planned Parenthood and its minions:
"We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives.
The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen. We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not.
Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair.
Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer. Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process. We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities."
I see this as a confirmation that Susan G. Komen is not interested in actually saving women's lives. They are, quite simply, still all about placating the media in order to stay in good graces with those whose influence is most visible. They recognize that the media is powerful, that many people are content with downloading what they see as a popular cultural opinion as opposed to the truth, even if it's as blatant as the Planned Parenthood's phony mammography services.

I had sent an email in support of their recent decision, "liked" them on their FB page, and had written a comment thanking them for their continued support of women. I thanked them on behalf of myself and my daughters. It is to be assumed that many others had also sent them emails in support of their decision for life. The combination of both women for and against their withdrawing of funding seems to have scared them away from making such a stand, and now they want to go back to the illusion of neutrality.

What they don't realize is that their version of neutrality really just takes them back to where they started, in the back pocket of the Planned Parenthood, which is really not the place for an organization that claims to support women should be. It's hypocrisy. And it's really hard to quit it.

UPDATE:

In the interest of getting the complete story, I wish to share this insight from Jill Stanek:
"This statement represents nothing new. Komen and CEO Nancy Brinker had already stated they would continue to fund Planned Parenthood’s existing grants through 2012 (one through 2013). Brinker told Andrew Mitchell that number was three. Other reports and my source say the number is five.
If Planned Parenthood is found guilty of criminal investigations, several of which are ongoing around the states (Medicaid fraud in Texas and California; fraudulent reporting and illegal abortions in Kansas, and yes, the federal Congressional investigation, etc.), Komen’s criteria will still disqualify Planned Parenthood from receiving grants, as it should.
This is Komen’s attempt to get the abortion mafia off their backs. Planned Parenthood and its thugs have engaged in typical shakedown: Give us money or we will destroy you.
Be savvy. Nothing has changed. Komen is merely trying to to get some breathing room."
I hope so.

Second UPDATE:
Both Planned Parenthood and Nancy Pelosi are thrilled with this morning's statement. Something sickens me about this. I don't have the stomach for dirty politics. Never did.

That's why I don't place my trust in politics. My faith is in Christ and His Holy and Immaculate Bride, the Church. We know who wins the battle, and God willing, I won't end up on the losing team.

"Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A light that shines in the darkness

Just found this article on the Fox News website last night. The press is really not understanding why Catholics are so enraged, and for that matter, why isn’t anybody else worried? This administration is trashing the First Amendment, and Americans are looking the other way. Apathy such as this was the precursor to many atrocities.
Catholics are fired up over new rules implementing Obama's health care reform law forcing Catholic universities, hospitals, and charities to provide insurance for their employees covering contraception -- even though that violates church teachings.
"When you push people of faith and you tell them the government is going to knock down the wall of separation of church and state and overreach like the Obama administration, you've got a war on your hands," Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, told Fox News.
In an extraordinary move this past weekend, New York Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan and other archbishops throughout the nation had their priests read letters denouncing the Obama administration policy from the pulpit at Sunday Mass.
"Never before has the government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience," Dolan said in a web video that takes the battle online. "This shouldn't happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights. How about letting our elected leaders know that we want religious liberty and rights of consciences restored and the administration's mandate rescinded? We can't afford to strike out on this one."
Pressed on the matter at his daily briefing Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney repeated several times the administration believes it struck an "appropriate balance" in crafting the policy.
"The administration believes that this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious beliefs and increasing access to important preventive services," said Carney. "We will continue to work closely with religious groups during this transitional period to discuss their concerns."
Even some Catholic Democrats are not buying that claim, however, with liberal columnist E.J. Dionne ripping the policy in a Washington Post column. Dionne charged Monday that the president "utterly botched" the issue and "threw his progressive Catholic allies under the bus."
A report last year from the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit sexual health research organization, found that 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women have used birth control despite the church's teachings. According to a Reuters report on the study, only 2 percent of Catholic women rely on natural family planning.
Nevertheless, the bishops have noted in their lobbying campaign that contraceptive coverage would include the so-called "morning after pill," opening the door to even more controversy over abortion.

Apparently, the author of this news story does not understand the what the "big deal" is. Contraception has become so mainstream that most of the media is surprised by this reaction. They think it's JUST about the "morning after pill." The study from the Guttmacher Institute demonstrates this point most strikingly...but also note how it is worded to skew the data.

"98 percent HAVE used birth control." Language like this might cover any of us who have ever used any sort of birth control method at any time, regardless of what we hold to be the teaching of the Catholic Church. Reading between the lines, one is left with the following impression..."An overwhemling majority of Catholics have been using contraceptives for years anyway, so why is the Catholic Church all up in arms about a mandate that meets a realistic expectation?" My answer: just because most of us HAVE caved to a culture that is constantly barraging us with propaganda about "safe sex" and "planned pregnancies" and "population control" doesn't mean that we are on board with a boldfaced rejection of Church teaching. Granted, there are many dissidents within the Church, our current director of Health and Human Services being one of the foremost authorities on defiance against her own faith. However, many of us have come to realize the great beauty of the Church's teaching on human sexuality through time, and according the the wording in the statistics above, we would have been lumped into that 98 percent.

Actually, maybe we should thank the government for calling us to arms. Our Catholic Church has been steadily growing in the numbers of Catholics who are faithful to the Church's teaching on artificial contraception, sterilization and abortion. This dark and deadly mandate has allowed some of us to be able to see the great shining light of the Church's unabashed dedication to truth.

Even if no one else comes to the defense of the Catholics on this issue, we must make our voices heard, and we must brace ourselves. Yes, it really could get that bad.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/01/31/holy-war-over-health-care-law-obama-angers-catholic-leaders/print#ixzz1l8h1HMGx