Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The things we learn in poverty

One of the greatest lessons God has taught me up to this point in my life is the importance of not getting in His way. Each time I think about certain events in my life, painful though they were at the time, I have to laugh at how I would start to feel like I couldn’t breathe (as if I were drowning). I would panic and flail my arms about, trying to swim, only to find myself in deeper waters. It’s what we do. We’re human, and we freak out, sometimes at the most inconsequential things.

One of these instances will forever be imprinted in my memory. We were living out in the D.C. area while my husband was continuing his education. Our family, consisting of me, my husband and three small children lived in a shabby apartment that was also the residence of a community of cockroaches. Thin walls and thin floors constantly betrayed our movements and voices to our neighbors which were often answered by banging on the floor by the childless couple down below.

On top of the stress of big city living, we were broke, borrowing to support our family through student loans which frequently ran dry and were eagerly anticipated at the beginning of each semester. We budgeted as best we could, but it was often down to the wire.

I’ll never forget that fall semester when my husband called and told me that there had been a mix-up with the student loans and that we would have to wait an additional month to get any money. I was crying (more like wailing), wondering how we were going to get basic things...milk, eggs, bread.

I also wondered why God would allow us to be in this situation when we were really striving to do what was best for our children. We had made the decision that it would be better for me to stay at home with them while they were young. We were living in obedience to the Church’s teaching about married love being both unitive and procreative. My husband was working so hard to provide for us, attending school during the day and working as many extra hours as the university would allow.

It was at this moment of angry prayer that God’s grace must have directed me to Proverbs. I was looking for a small piece of wisdom that would give me advice for a situation that seemed so unfair and frustrating. I also wanted something to offer my husband in apology for my lack of docility. What I found was Proverbs 17:1 “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.” God doesn’t promise to provide for us monetarily, but He always gives us what we truly need.

What I experienced was the fear of Peter on the water. When his eyes were on Christ, having faith in His power, resting in the hope of His promise, and being convinced of His love for Peter, Peter walked on water. When he started to panic, not trusting in Jesus, but in considering only what he knew to be true about the principles of water, he started to sink.

Don’t underestimate the gift of poverty. Don’t overestimate the promise of wealth. In demanding more money people often forget what beauty God reveals in the space we are often too ready to fill up with our own wants and desires. I thank God for this lesson in early married life.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A little boy on a mission from God

I found this story on one of my favorite blogs, American Papist, today. It is a story about a boy born without significant parts of his brain, and he continues to baffle doctors by what he is able to do.

Notice that the doctor admits when he sees a little boy who can defy so many expectations, it makes him realize that the medical community doesn't begin to know the smallest portion of what they thought they knew about the human brain. I smiled when I heard him say that. It made me think about the Intelligent Designer who allows us to take part in His creation, and rejoices when we humbly achieve knowledge for the sake of His love, which is all encompassing. This little boy was sent to this earth to teach all of us about this Divine love, about the hope in circumstances beyond our understanding, and about the certainty of faith in God's will.

Friday, February 11, 2011

God's presence at the crossroads

I am not convinced that personal experience is the best argument against the practice of abortion, but I do find inspiration from people’s accounts regarding their own encounters at the crossroads of life. I think all of us can relate to being in a situation in which we’ve dug a hole for ourselves and God comes in to ask us if we want to keep digging or if we would like to stop and allow Him to help us out. It is the most beautiful experience to be up to your neck in a mess of your own doing and to realize that God loves you enough to come in after you.

Such was my situation in my sophomore year of college. I was young, in love, and a little lonely, having just had an argument with my parents over the guy I was dating. We clung to each other in a way that only married people should, both emotionally and physically. Then one day...panic. “What if I am? What would we do?” I went to the student health center for the test.

While waiting for the result, my heart was racing. A million thoughts ran through my head, most of them driven by fear. My name was called, and I approached an older woman with a kind face. I sat down.

“Well,” she said, “It’s positive.”

She must have seen my jaw drop, because she quickly asked me if I had thought about what I might do. In that moment, I felt completely exposed. I wanted to run, to be anywhere but there, having to deal with all of the consequences of my irresponsible behavior. I wanted it to go away.

Thank God I got to have those feelings. Though I didn’t have to deliberate between choosing life and choosing death, I received the understanding of helplessness, and it formed me in compassion for those who feel desperation in the face of an overwhelming situation. I can truly say that I've been there.

As the lady waited for an answer, I struggled to find the words to say. I wanted to make a statement, to proclaim that abortion is not morally permissible, to be resilient in the face of adversity. All I felt was shame and fear.

“I’m keeping the baby.” It was the only thing I could say.

Tears welled in her eyes as she reached out her hand to hold mine. “God bless you,” she said in a whisper.

As I reflect upon this encounter, I feel the hand of God reaching out to touch mine. I hear the words of His blessing comforting me in my shame, and I receive the gift that He has bestowed upon me, an unworthy college girl, too frightened to proclaim the words of His truth.

God supplied what I needed at that moment through the actions and words of a courageous woman of faith. That day I was confirmed in my belief that every child is a blessing because I recognized His strength and comfort in my weakness.

She is a beautiful fifteen-year-old girl, our oldest daughter, and our reconciliation with God through our vocation of marriage has been the most wonderful gift of all.

Learning to recognize God's gifts in our lives is so important. Abortion destroys God's most precious gifts and makes it more difficult to distinguish truth and beauty from the seductive lies of our culture. I pray that our country will one day realize how abortion is harming our whole society through the rejection of God's goodness.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Common sense of the senseless?

I don't have much time to keep up with news, but the story about the Planned Parenthood employee who was caught on tape collaborating in illegal activities against young teenage girls has been gnawing at me (not something I feel the need to include in this post, but "Bravo!" to Lila Rose and the people of Live Action for pulling up the carpet to reveal the rot). The resulting fallout from the public scandal (PP's response) finally compelled me to weigh in on the absurdity of using words without considering their meaning.

There has been some talk about the term “common sense”, particularly regarding Planned Parenthood’s employee training. What struck me as odd is that the term “common sense” is being used by a group that has been senseless from its inception and degrading of the common dignity of the human person.

Let’s define “common sense” according to human standards, shall we? Starting with the term, “common”, meaning what is shared by all. What exactly IS shared by all? The fact that humans are comprised of both body and soul, that our lives are directed toward a purpose, that our activity is distinct from animals: these are all observable realities. We think, we reason, we have tools and solve problems. We contemplate complex moral issues. We deliberate. In short, there is nothing that can explain the intricacies of the human existence other than the existence of a soul which animates the body. The term “common”, therefore, cannot deny the reality of a shared human existence.

“Sense” is another term that cannot be used flippantly. It is a means of gathering knowledge about perceivable realities. We use tangible senses to determine action. Simple instincts in conjunction with our senses compel us to remove our hand from a hot burner or to spit out something that tastes bitterly poisonous.

In putting the two terms together, we get a powerhouse of meaning. Sensate knowledge combined with what is common to all humans, namely the soul, ignites all the capacities of human intellect and will. Memory, reasoning and the desire to act in accordance with goodness (what is good for our bodies and souls) comprise this uniquely human gift of “common sense”.

No organization that supports the destruction of human life can invoke this standard of using “common sense”. Its mission is to support the willful termination of human life which denies the dignity of the human and the reality of the soul. In effect, Planned Parenthood is training its employees deny their own innate wisdom, and the result is evidenced in the cold words of someone who is clearly desensitized.

Friday, February 4, 2011

IPT open class weekend Feb. 18-20 in Janesville, WI

Have you ever thought about studying theology? Are you interested in finding out more about a master's program in theology that offers you both the flexibility of fitting into a family and/or work schedule while providing you with the personal contact of top-notch professors and the camaraderie of enthusiastic classmates? The Institute for Pastoral Theology is offering open classes in several locations throughout the country. I thought I would post information about the upcoming classes in Janesville, WI, where I attend. The lectures are so unbelievably fantastic, and they are FREE! Just sign up and get there.

Ave Maria University’s

invites you to an

Speakers and topics for the weekend include:

Dr. David Twellman
New Testament II: The Pauline Epistles “The Corinthian Correspondence
Friday Feb. 18, 2011 7 pm – 9:50 pm

Prof. Ben Nguyen
Canon Law “Understanding Jurisdiction, Church Documents, and the Rights and Duties of the Faithful
Saturday Feb. 19, 2011 12:30 pm – 6:40 pm

Prof. Douglas Bushman
Ecclesiology “The Mystery of the Church: Giving Glory to God
Sunday Feb. 20, 2011 8 am – 3:50 pm

Classes are held at St. John Vianney Catholic School in Janesville, WI.

Please contact the IPT office if you plan to attend.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Good movie and a book with a wonderful ending

Just thought I would briefly post about the movie we saw this past Saturday. The Rite is a movie about a young (deacon?) who goes to Rome to be trained as an exorcist. I must admit that I am always hesitant to see any exorcism movies ever since my regrettable viewing of the original exorcist movie back in my college days (it was an old movie even then - but still yucky even by today's standards.)

However, it seems that someone in hollywood is interested in a semblance of accuracy. I won't give much away for those of you who are interested in seeing it, but just to let you know, it is surprisingly faith-affirming. It also makes you extremely thankful to be a Catholic.

The movie is supposedly loosely based (emphasis on the "loosely") upon the recently released book, The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio. It is an interesting book about the life of Fr. Gary Thomas who was recently trained to be an exorcist under the tutelage of a more experienced one. My thought as I was reading the book was that the author could have benefitted from a less secular view of the Church. He attempted to be "fair" by presenting "both sides" of what amounted to some inaccurate understandings of Church teachings. This was my first impression throughout the first half of the book.

However, as the book went on, an interesting shift seemed to occur. His language when speaking about the Church became more protective. I wondered if the act of writing and researching the book was beginning to affect his perspective. Lo and behold...at the end of the book, the author writes, "The writing of this book became a journey of sorts for me as well. It helped me to reconnect with my faith in a way that I never expected when I began researching exorcism." Phenomenal.

I would have to recommend both with just a few reservations. The movie is not for the faint of heart. There are some disturbing images that have to do with demonic possession and there are some hollywood moments that any well-formed Catholic could recognize, but overall the movie is so good at promoting the faith that it almost seems like an advertisement for the Catholic Church. The book, also, is a good read that does, at times, present a slightly secularized view of the Church that seems to be remedied with the author's own gradual transformation towards the end.