Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Life without television

Throughout this past year, our family has undergone an experiment of sorts. We became “unplugged” as of September 1, 2009. Our television has been used as a monitor only without the programming of any cable, satellite or local stations. It’s been one of the best decisions we ever made.

What, might you ask, is the difference between watching DVDs and watching television? Commercials. It almost nauseates me to remember the constant barrage of junk that would daily seep into our brains. We would be watching a “family show” and when the commercials commenced, the floodgates of the culture spewed out into our living room, without concern about protecting the innocent members of our family. Family programming, my foot!

Beyond protection, though, there has been an unanticipated change in our children. They are more receptive to parental advice. It seemed to occur at about the same time, so my husband and I have made the connection, perhaps unscientifically, but not without reason. Television is one more voice that competes with parental authority. In television programming, viewers are held hostage to whatever voice happens to be on at the time. Advertisers know this. The Hollywood elite with anti-family, anti-faith agendas also realize this. Television captivates its audience. It literally makes captives out of each one of us.

In eliminating television from our children’s lives, we have actually freed them from captivity. And we have freed ourselves from additional battles that would have been introduced through the media of television. Hats off to the telecommunications company for raising our rates. We realized that life is much easier without their service. Hats off to the government for switching over to digital. We are one of the few families who did not get a converter box, and we are not replacing our television anytime soon. We prefer it as it is, a monitor that allows us to show our children good movies that will feed their souls.

EWTN? Well, there’s always the live stream on the internet.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Guilt is...GOOD

A homily I just heard this weekend reminded me about the concept of guilt. It seems that in our time, the only evil that exists is the feeling of guilt. Guilt is viewed as a negative emotion that stunts our growth as individuals. We attempt to rid ourselves of guilt by ignoring it, discussing it away, and if necessary, medicating it to numb its effects upon us. It is funny how some of the simplest gifts of God are really quite mistaken in our attempt to feel good.

Guilt is not the hindrance that we all imagine it to be. It is actually quite the opposite. We experience guilt as the product of a properly formed conscience. In fact, the truly sick person is the individual who goes through life experiencing no guilt, no regret for past actions or nudges to act according to a higher standard. In a world of pleasure seeking gone wild, we need to have our consciences fully functioning, and guilt is the indication that we are keeping ourselves in check.

The next time someone says “don’t feel guilty” to you, please be careful in discerning whether or not the intentions of that person align with the intentions of God. God intends for us to recognize guilt, process its validity, and renew our commitment to Christ. Guilt is good, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Nature in revolt

One of my younger friends on Facebook just posted this article from the National Catholic Register. It is an eye-opening piece about how the chemicals and synthetic hormones in birth control pills are mutating fish. The article focuses on the hypocrisy of environmentalists to ignore such a prevalent and well-documented problem. Scientific findings have been available since 2005.

What confounds me even more than the inconsistency of the environmentalists is the failure of the average woman to make the connection between mutations in fish and mutations, say, in breast tissue. Some of these women, mind you, shun artificial sweetners, drink bottled water, go gluten free, eat organic fruits and vegetables, buy cage-free, grain-fed, hormone-free meat, and take their birth control pills religiously. When I see women coming together dressed in pink, raising money for the fight against breast cancer, I wonder how many of those same women would be so adamant in their protest against the harmful chemicals that continue to be pushed onto us by the mainstream medical establishment.

The ripple effects of contraception and its moral and social evils are so widespread. We should not be suprised that the physical mutations are showing up in our natural habitats. Nature has a way of being able to only take so much. When people speak about nature, there is often a disconnect with the Creator of nature. God is the author of all life, so when it becomes apparent that nature is becoming disfigured by harmful chemicals that are intended for the prevention and the destruction of His gift of life, we have to realize that God is allowing nature to revolt against the sin that has imposed itself. The fish are yet another warning, a wake-up call, a physical manifestation of the mutated contraceptive culture.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The irony of attraction

I recall my husband one time related to me a comment from our dear friend Nazareth Priest (way before our blogging days). It was regarding some "Cool to be Catholic" t-shirts that he had seen. He said, "It's not cool to be Catholic. It's darned hard." It struck me as funny and deeply insightful. We who love the Catholic Church and seek to follow Christ in our everyday lives know the constant battle with our own sinfulness and with the culture that continues to belittle us for trying.

I think the "Cool to be Catholic" t-shirts were invented to attract young people. I don't know how effective these are. Even if young people don't see through the veiled attempt of adults to manipulate them through the "bandwagon" and end up buying into the message that being Catholic is cool, aren't we setting them up for a huge reality check? Many times they aren't going to be "cool" or attractive to their peers. Is being "cool" what we're in this for?  Pope Benedict doesn't think so.
"In my view, a Church which seeks above all to be attractive is already on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for herself, she does not work to increase her numbers and her power. The Church is at the service of Another. She serves not herself, not to become strong; rather, she serves to make the announcement of Jesus Christ more accessible: the great truths, the great powers of love and reconciliation which appeared in Him and which always come from the presence of Jesus Christ." -Pope Benedict XVI, September 2010.
In the ironic world of attraction, we can spot those who are trying too hard to get noticed. They are desperate for attention, unsure about who they are and where they are going. In seeking to be attractive above all else, the subject creates a superficial facade that repels all who seek truth. Pope Benedict's view of how the Church should conduct Herself is not unlike the advice we parents would give to our teenage who God created you to be. Be holy, and be confident that the light of Christ will attract those who really appreciate who you are.

God and Hagar

Since I am up working on my Old Testament paper, I thought I would take a break to quickly reflect upon a sometimes overlooked figure in the bible. One of the narratives from the Old Testament that captures my imagination is the story of Hagar, the maidservant of Sarai (later Sarah), wife of Abram (Abraham). I feel such empathy for her whenever I read it. Sarai tells Abram to have relations with Hagar because she is unable to provide him with a child. Immediately after she learns that Hagar conceived a child, Sarai regrets her own suggestion and becomes violently jealous. To please his wife, Abram tells Sarai that she may deal with Hagar as she pleases...and she does something harsh (we’re not told what) that makes Hagar flee.

The Angel of the Lord visits her, comforts her, and directs her to accept her duty. She returns to Sarai and submits to her (Gen. 16:1-15). This pattern is again repeated after the child, Ishmael, is born. Sarah’s anger is reawakened as she sees her son Isaac and Hagar’s son Ishmael playing together. She wants them gone. God lets Abraham know what his will is regarding Isaac and that he should honor the request of his wife. Hagar, once again in a desperate situation, panics when her water runs out and abandons Ishmael under a bush in the wilderness.

The Angel of the Lord visits her, comforts her, and directs her to accept her duty (Gen. 21:1-21). The formula is not lost on me. As I prepare for my September weekend of classes, I am comforted by this story about Hagar. We all feel overwhelmed at times, knowing that there is more to be done than hours in the day will allow. And in the moments when we need Him the most, when our bodies and minds are exhausted, Christ visits us in prayer, comforts us as only He can, and after we have received His refreshing grace, He lovingly instructs us to accept our duty and get back to work.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Credo Catholics vote pro-life

Here in Wisconsin, an interesting race is shaping up between two Catholic politicians, or rather, two politicians who claim the Catholic name. Julie Lassa, whose name many in the Diocese of La Crosse may recall from her whiney leak to the press about Bishop Burke’s attempt to dialogue with her about her personal inconsistency of being Catholic and holding a “pro-choice” position on abortion, is running against Sean Duffy, pro-life Catholic father of six children, in the Seventh Congressional District. (Duffy also happens to be endorsed by my good friend and fellow blogger, Badger Catholic.)

From this little bit of information that I have provided, Credo Catholics should be able to make the choice rather easily. Abortion is not an issue. It is a fundamental right to be born after conception. There are no complicating factors such as poverty or rape or incest. Those are all peripherals...smoke in mirrors meant to distract from what the plain truth entails...are we pro-death or pro-life? It is truly that simple. Notice that I have not even mentioned the political parties of the candidates above. It just does not matter.

This is one of the reasons that I am rather frustrated by old-school party affiliations. Up here in Wisconsin, many Catholics (I call them crustycatholics) still vote with the political party that was associated with the only Catholic President ever to hold office, regardless of what views they hold. John F. Kennedy was president in the 1960s. It’s the year 2010. Times have changed. Crustycatholics don’t respond to change. Credo Catholics do. Credo Catholics vote according to their properly formed consciences and would never view the right to life as “one issue among many.”

With the 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade, American politics have seemed to absorb this fundamental human right into the list of issues of that we debate about...taxes, healthcare, wages, abortion. Don’t make this mistake in thinking it is just another issue. The right to life transcends all other matters.

So this November, vote as if your soul depended upon it...because it does!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thank you for welcoming me!

I just wanted to take some time out and thank some of my fellow bloggers who have tagged me in the recent weeks.

Anne at Imprisoned in My Bones, you have been a support to me from the very beginning. Your encouragement is unyielding and uplifting.

Colleen at Thoughts on Grace also kindly mentioned my blog. Thanks, Colleen!

I didn't actually realize that people who didn't know me would be reading and following my blog. It's really cool. I am glad that you are enjoying it, and I look forward to the conversations and friendships that will come out of it.

Finally, to all of my readers, thank you for supporting Catholic blogs. Our presence is so important on the Internet. May God's blessings be upon us so that He may use us as His instruments in the New Evangelization.

Our Lady of Sorrows

It gives me great joy on this feast of Our Lady of Sorrows to be able to share with you an excerpt from Savifici Doloris, an Apostolic Letter written by the late great John Paul II. In my past year of study, this letter greatly helped me in truly appreciating the role of suffering in faith. His words are so gentle and kind, speaking to the very heart of a Christian disciple...
It is especially consoling to note—and also accurate in accordance with the Gospel and history—that at the side of Christ, in the first and most exalted place, there is always his Mother through the exemplary testimony that she bears by her whole life to this particular Gospel of suffering. In her, the many and intense sufferings were amassed in such an interconnected way that they were not only a proof of her unshakeable faith but also a contribution to the redemption of all. In reality, from the time of her secret conversation with the angel, she began to see in her mission as a mother her "destiny" to share, in a singular and unrepeatable way, in the very mission of her Son. And she very soon received a confirmation of this in the events that accompanied the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, and in the solemn words of the aged Simeon, when he spoke of a sharp sword that would pierce her heart. Yet a further confirmation was in the anxieties and privations of the hurried flight into Egypt, caused by the cruel decision of Herod.

And again, after the events of her Son's hidden and public life, events which she must have shared with acute sensitivity, it was on Calvary that Mary's suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which was mysterious and supernaturally fruitful for the redemption of the world. Her ascent of Calvary and her standing at the foot of the Cross together with the Beloved Disciple were a special sort of sharing in the redeeming death of her Son. And the words which she heard from his lips were a kind of solemn handing-over of this Gospel of suffering so that it could be proclaimed to the whole community of believers.
As a witness to her Son's Passion by her presence, and as a sharer in it by her compassion, Mary offered a unique contribution to the Gospel of suffering, by embodying in anticipation the expression of Saint Paul which was quoted at the beginning. She truly has a special title to be able to claim that she "completes in her flesh"—as already in her heart—"what is lacking in Christ's afflictions ".
To read the complete Apostolic Letter, visit the Vatican's website.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rejoicing over the repentant sinner

This past Sunday, our wonderfully brilliant pastor delivered a homily in the tradition of St. Ambrose. I am currently reading St. Augustine’s Confessions, so this quote comes to me readily. St. Augustine writes about St. Ambrose, “By his eloquent sermons in those days he zealously provided your people with the fat of your wheat, the gladness of your oil, and the sobering intoxication of your wine.” Beautiful.

Father’s homily focused on the Gospel, the parable of the Prodigal Son. He painted the picture of what the Jewish audience would have been thinking about Jesus’ story, that it would have been shocking and very uncomfortable for them to hear about a son whose father would have welcomed him after such disgrace and outright disrespect. Similarly, the woman searching for what would have been the equivalent of a penny and the shepherd leaving behind his sheep to search for the lost one are stories that would have seemed senseless, and upon reflection even now, they still transcend human understanding.

The point was that God’s love for us is unbelievable, incomprehensible to the human mind. We think that there should be some sort of earthly justice that responds in kind to the evil deeds done by another person (particularly if they are done to us). Not so, with the superabundant love of God. The repentant sinner is welcomed with a loving embrace.

To conclude his homily, Father offered to us a challenge for our modern time. How would we respond if one of the 9/11 terrorists repented and was welcomed into Heaven after having successfully plotted such a heinous crime? Would we be able to humbly rejoice in the victory over sin and death in that terrorist’s soul, or would we be so proudly bitter about the injustice of a sinner’s consequence?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering 9/11

Nine years ago, my husband and I and our three children were living in an apartment outside of D.C. My husband was in law school and at class for the day at Catholic University. I happened to turn on the television at about nine o’clock that morning. What I saw was the beginning of what would be the most horrific day for our nation in my lifetime.

Panic gripped me when I realized that I could not reach my husband on his cell phone. The systems were overwhelmed with the amount of calls and shut down. My anxiety further increased when I heard that the Pentagon had been hit. All I could do was to wait and pray.

When my husband walked through the door, I was so relieved to see him and have him with us. The television remained on as we continued on with the activities of the day. Images of the planes impacting the two towers became burned into our memories from the constant replays.

For the next week, an eerie silence descended upon us. We took our children to the playground that was a part of our apartment complex. There were no planes overhead. The sky stood completely still, and I imagined that God was closer than ever to all of us in the quiet of our sorrow.

For nine years, we have remembered, rebuilt, and re-envisioned ourselves as a people and a nation, but have we stopped to take a look at God’s hope that daily surrounds us? This morning, a beautiful boy was born to my sister and her husband, their sixth. I cannot think of a better way to commemorate the tragedy of 9/11 than to recognize the hope of life that God brings into the world.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The blessing of God's law

My husband and I had the rare gift of being born in the seventies to parents who did not believe in using birth control. Both sets of parents were Catholic at a time when even some priests were confused about the Church’s teaching on contraception. Even though each set of parents lived in different countries to begin with, they were able to hold to the universal truth that love desires manifestation. Being open to God’s gift of fertility in their lives, my husband’s family had four boys, and my parents had four girls. It wasn’t until high school that I realized not only that my parents practiced Natural Family Planning, but that they seemed to be rare in their grasp of Catholic Church teaching.

This is why contraception and sterilization have not been issues of discussion in our marriage except in the context of rejoicing over the Church’s wisdom in condemning these acts as contrary to nature. God has given us five beautiful children who are wonderful in every way, not designed by us but given to us by a loving Father. It makes me think that we are too narrow in our intentions when we pray. We pray for this thing or that thing that we think we can absolutely not live without. God is smiling all the while, knowing that He has greater joy planned for us than we could ever imagine.

Contraception and sterilization close us off from receiving God’s abundant graces, spiritually and physically. Without God’s grace we are sad, hollow shells who wander about aimlessly. When we allow ourselves to be open to what God wants, we are whole human beings, living according to the purpose of our existence. It is only in this wholeness that we ever truly can be happy.

The reason that I bring up this topic on this day is because of an article I read about how the European population is in danger of being overtaken by Muslims not by force but by births (not news, really). Europe has ceased to live according to its Christian heritage, and now they are reaping the bitter fruits of impending submission to an anti-Christian force. All of us are in danger of the same fate if we do not allow God to fill us with His love.

“Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods which you have not known” Num. 11:26-28.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Taking time to nurture marriage

It has been nearly a week since I last posted. We are in the midst of many changes in our household. My husband just shifted in his job situation, our children started back to school, and I went back for my fall semester of classes. There are times when my husband and I don’t get to spend time together as much as we would like, and I think that is pretty common for our day and age. Families are busy, and the temptation is to focus on the details rather than on the big picture.

If we obsessed about the sheer multitude of things that each one of us had to accomplish in any given day, the priority of objects would overwhelm us. Sometimes, in fact, that does happen. It is easy to lose focus on what is really important unless prayer is a part of our daily lives. God takes priority in our lives. Every day should be ordered to pleasing our Lord. When He’s pushed aside, we are easily confused in a society that aggressively competes for our affections.

God directs us back to the mission He has entrusted to us. As married couples, we are called to help one another on our journey toward heaven and to share our love in such a way that the physical manifestation of our love and God’s love combined also becomes our path to sanctity. Children are the wonderful gift of God whose love is so great it cannot be contained. Even so, the marriage itself has to have priority for the benefit of the couple and of the children. The best gift any father and mother can give to their children is the love and support of a joyful marriage.

I am absolutely in awe of the great gift of such a wonderful and loving spouse who knows this to be true. This past weekend we enjoyed a dinner out (even though I had five loads of laundry to fold, a five-page paper on the Hebrew words used in Genesis looming over me, 300 pages left in St. Augustine’s Confessions and my reading for Christian Anthropology to complete). Fantastic dinner, incomparable conversation, side-splitting laughter...we still enjoy each other’s company like we did in college, only now it’s richer and deeper, carrying with it all the experience of life and a mature faith in God.

Time out with the hubby...just what the Holy Physician of souls ordered!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

On suffering

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Trial, or distress, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword? Yet in all this we are more than conquerors because of him who has loved us.” Romans 8:35, 37

All of us have encountered people in our lives who will claim that something bad destroyed their faith. It’s the old “problem of suffering”. They might say that if there is a God, that He could not will bad things to happen, because evil cannot come from pure goodness. This is simply good reasoning in a narrow scope. The problem is that God’s goodness is bigger than simply willing perfect earthly happiness. His desire for us is to behold His glory, sharing in His perfect love for an eternity in Heaven.

Love freely chosen is infinitely superior to robotic mind control. I think everyone could agree upon that. Because God wants us to choose Him freely, out of love, it necessarily follows that there are going to be people who don’t desire God. We call this rejection of goodness, sin. It is in the world because God is willing the greater good of free will. Sadly, rejection of goodness is responsible for a great multitude of sufferings, wars and famine, family conflicts and the devaluing of human life.

There is, however, a suffering that seems more scandalous. It is the scandal of the cross. Every saint has encountered it and considers it a great gift. It is the suffering that arises out of no consequence of personal sin, but in the invitation to walk the steps with Christ to Calvary. Each of us, in order to purify our love for our Lord must consider what we are attached to that keeps us from fully loving. Suffering helps us do this. “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” If we can get through trials, distresses, poverty, or even death with the love of Christ as our strength, Faith has conquered.

Thankfully, I have encountered more people in my life whose faith has been strengthened by suffering. It is those whose faith was built upon firm ground. Whenever I get to talk to one of these inspirational people, it fills me with a humble thought. Please, God, when my suffering comes, shower me with the grace to glorify You.