Sunday, December 19, 2010

Join My Facebook Page: One Thing I Learned At Mass #Catholic

I started my first Facebook "Like" page. (Formerly known as "fan" pages.) It's called "One Thing I Learned At Mass." From my page description:
This page was inspired by a CD I recently heard, "Seven Pillars of Catholic Spirituality" by Matthew Kelly. (Lighthouse Catholic Media) During his talk, he suggested that Catholics purchase a journal, and after attending their weekly Mass obligation, they jot down the one thing they learned during Mass, with the goal of implementing it in their lives.

I really liked the idea. However, I'm not that great keeping a written journal. I thought it might be more interesting to have a community where we shared with one another the "one thing" we learned and what how we intended to focus on it. Along the way, I hope we can encourage each other and receive inspiration.

When I attended a Presbyterian church and non-denominational churches, I would bring my Bible and a notebook. I'd take notes during the sermon and often look up and meditate upon the Scripture verses throughout the week.

After I heard Matthew Kelly's suggestion of purchasing a journal to keep the "one thing" I learned during Mass, and then focused on implementing that one thing in my life, I was inspired. I thought it was a fabulous idea. He asked, "How would our world changed if the millions of Catholics started doing this?" I got excited as I thought about the implications.

So, the "Like" button is at the top right and I hope you join and contribute. I think it will be interesting to see what others post as their "one thing" and I hope it will encourage us all.

Pass it along and I would be very grateful if you, my fellow Catholic bloggers, would post it on your page. Thank you!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Virtual Panoramic View of the Sistine Chapel #Catholic

A friend sent me this a few months ago. I am so thrilled the Vatican has started to use technology to share its gorgeous art with the world. I had the privilege of visiting the Vatican in 1985, although I wish I could say it was a spiritual pilgrimage. However, even as a tourist, one cannot help but marvel at the architectural genius of one of the greatest spiritual sites in the world. I was amazed by St. Peter's Basilica and other sites, such as the museum and the catacombs.


Use your arrow buttons on the keyboard to move around to the side and up. The "zoom" button is at the bottom left of the page.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Update on Prayer Request: Fantastic News!

I am tired, but I felt that I had to update our situation because I am still on "cloud nine."

We had a miracle.

From my last post: A tumor was found in my husband's colon, discovered by an urgent colonoscopy. Mickey had some rectal bleeding that came suddenly and led to the emergency room. After the colonoscopy, tests were ordered; CAT scan, X-ray, bone scan. Thankfully, all came back negative regarding any metastasizing. Surgery was scheduled to remove part of Mickey's colon where the tumor resided. It went well and the surgeon also added that the lymph nodes were taken to be tested. My elation at the negative results from the other tests evaporated as I thought about the lymphatic system. What would we find?

The worst part is waiting... The surgery was Wednesday. It was only today, mid-morning when we found out the pathology of the tumor. It was a "baby" tumor, halfway between being a benign polyp and part of it turning into malignancy. It was caught early and all of it was removed, with no signs of other cancer cells being found in Mickey's system. And, the lymph nodes were clear.

I stayed overnight at the hospital, sleeping in one of those not-quite-comfortable chairs, next to Mickey's bed. I wanted to be there first thing in the morning for whatever news the doctors would give. I awoke at 4:30 AM and immediately started my morning prayers. I am praying a novena to St. Peregrine and also prayed prayers to St. Anthony, St. Padre Pio, our Blessed Virgin Mother, and of course, our Lord Jesus Christ. After my prayers, I felt at peace and filled with hope. I felt we would have good news this day. And we did.

There is so much running around my mind, right now. All day we've been spreading the good news to our families and friends. Mickey will be "under surveillance," having to visit several doctors to keep posted on his progress. He is healing wonderfully after a major surgery. I am thrilled beyond words that I have my husband back in our home and that tonight, after a week of him being in the hospital, we will once again share our bed and wake up in the morning next to one another.

Cancer is a very scary word. But today showed me that God is most definitely bigger. I told my father that I had already prayed for God's will to be done and understood that the news could have gone in another direction. As you may imagine, I am so very glad it went toward healing and recovery. Quite simply, our lives changed within a week's time. Our diets are going to change. We will start walking together or engage in some kind of exercise to keep active. Our holidays will be sweeter and I believe both of us will look at each day as a true gift given to us by God.

There is also another aspect of this trial. I leaned on our Mother Mary more than I ever have in my life. I really felt as though she cared and yes, petitioned for the prayers that were crying from my heart. I have always felt God's presence but Mary has been another matter. Today, I felt as though she was smiling down upon us.

My husband is going to do a video about the importance of colonoscopies and that everyone should be screened. If it weren't for the bleeding, I know he never would have done it on his own. He is one of the most stubborn men I've known when it comes to visiting a doctor. But now he is, in a sense, "born again" regarding medical testing. As one student-doctor said to us, Mickey "dodged a big bullet" on this one.

Thank you all for your prayers. There is really no way I can repay you except to express my gratitude. Your prayers not only affected Mickey's health, but mine. I felt strength and a great deal of encouragement. I posted on all the ukulele message boards about Mickey's news and was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support. Mickey and I are very, very blessed to have such friends in our lives.

Tonight, Mickey and I prayed a thanksgiving prayer for everything God has done and we asked that our heavenly Father blesses each and every one of you for your compassion. He is so good! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. :-)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Post I Never Thought I'd Write: Update on Prayer Request #Catholic

My last post requesting prayer was cryptic for a few reasons. First, I notice that many Catholic bloggers, when requesting prayers for certain situations, are vague with whom they are for or the reason for the request. This practice is surprisingly refreshing and humble, since it seems Catholics have a prayer for every need on earth and quite a few that cover a multitude of needs.

Second, I really wasn't sure what was going on but there also was a bit of shock going on in my system as I entered into the unknown. I now come to you and ask for your prayers and intercession on behalf of my darling husband, Mickey. As some of you know, Mickey is not Catholic although he has Catholic great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers. He was cooperative enough to enter into the annulment process (because he was divorced) on my behalf so that our marriage could be blessed by the Church when I returned to Catholicism in 2008. I could not have asked God for a better spouse and our love for one another only has deepened over the years.

Yesterday, we celebrated our nine year anniversary in a hospital. Not where I would have wanted to do so, but circumstances had brought us there. Mickey was admitted to the hospital on Friday, December 3 for rectal bleeding. As you may suspect, this caused alarm. We went to the hospital's emergency room where, after checking him, they advised to admit him so they could keep an eye on him. I agreed and we did. A colonoscopy was ordered, but unbeknownst to me, there are certain procedures that aren't done over the weekend unless it's an emergency. So Mickey had to wait until Monday.

I think I can say that Monday was one of the most trying times of my life. The colonoscopy wasn't scheduled until the end of the day. It is a fairly quick procedure and thank God we have this method of examining our colons. Sometimes polyps grow in the colon that if left unchecked, can become cancerous. During a colonoscopy, they can safely remove these little buggers before they cause trouble. With Mickey's colonoscopy though, they found something a little larger than a polyp. They found a tumor.

And... that's when the roller-coaster ride of "what is it and what do we do?" began. The doctors determined that Mickey needed surgery to remove that section of his colon and tests began. CAT scan, X-rays, blood work. The good news is that his CAT scan came back clear as did the X-ray. Later on Tuesday, he had a bone scan. Yesterday morning we received more good news that his bone scan was clear. I was elated! Yesterday, on our ninth anniversary, Mickey had surgery to remove that nasty tumor, for which I was immensely grateful. But now, there is one more test to take, which I especially ask for your prayers: the lymphatic system. During surgery, it's routine to remove lymph nodes to test. So my prayers have been that this test will also show up as clear.

When things like this happen, it's so easy to say, "Why me? Why us?" As I walked down the hospital's corridor yesterday, I said to myself, "Why not me? Why not us?" We don't know the reason why God permits certain things in our lives, we only know that He is there and He is in charge. My faith has been getting a huge work-out this week and dare I say, so has Mickey's. I have been incredibly touched by the prayers and support we've already received from my home church as well as friends and family.

God has given me encouragement in many ways. For instance, the first nurse I talked to in the endoscopy department was very compassionate. After I got the news (and heard for the first time the word "tumor"), I said to her, "I think I'm going to cry." She immediately came over and gave me a hug and told me it was totally understandable as I cried on her shoulder. I then collected myself and said, "Well, I'm going to find the right saint for this one and start a novena!" She smiled.

I walked away and then thought, "Hmm. She looks Catholic to me." So being the enormous extrovert that I am (even in this circumstance), I marched back over to her and asked, "Hey, by any chance are you Catholic?" She smiled and nodded. In fact, she told me she attended St. Cecilia's, which is around the corner and down the street from where we live. I was surprised. "Wait a minute," I said. "I attend St. Cecilia's too, on occasion. I think I might know you...." As my mind ran through past introductions, it dawned on me. "I think you're my neighbor!"

She looked at me smiling, but with a puzzled look. I then described her back yard, which is adjacent to our building, and then described her husband who takes such pride in his garden, and especially in growing his hostas'. She nodded. Yes, that was her husband and garden. I slightly remembered here because one time when I went to church, I noticed she was getting in the car with her daughter. I pulled out behind them and saw they were going to the same place as me. We both talked about what a small world it was. I knew in that moment that I was in the right place and that God was watching over us.

At the moment, my husband is recovering from his surgery yesterday. There are all sorts of things he is going through in order to help him heal. But what I cherish above everything else is prayer. I attended Mass yesterday for the Holy Day of Obligation for our Blessed Mother's Immaculate Conception. (I found it interesting that I chose that day to get married without even realizing what day it was. Even though I wasn't in the Catholic Church at the time, I can't help but think this is significant.) I have been discovering some beautiful prayers and yes, the patron saint for cancer is St. Peregrine. This morning I prayed the Sacred Heart of Jesus prayer for the first time, at least for the first time I can remember. (What a tender and lovely prayer!)

So I ask for you to also keep my darling man in prayer. He is such a good man and treats people with love and respect. He gets along with everyone and is full of life, very much a "happy-go-lucky" type that can charm anyone. Throughout it all, I do ask for God's will and know that His will is indeed perfect. I ask for the grace and strength to accept whatever His will may be and the same for Mickey and our family and friends.

You, my dear readers, have encouraged me with your comments many times in the past. I want to thank you for your past prayers and ask if you send up a few more on behalf of my dear husband. I felt the prayers yesterday from my church family. How anyone gets through such times as these without faith is a mystery to me. Praise God for His Son, His Holy Spirit, for our Blessed Mother, and for all the angels and saints who constantly intercede on our behalf. I can safely say that since returning to the Catholic Church, I feel as though I have more "spiritual coverage" than I ever did outside of it. I am amazed and humbled, surprised and delighted. To God be all the glory. :-)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Prayer Request

A personal intention, but a loved one is in need of prayer. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

So What Is "Church?" #Catholic

This is one of the many questions about church that continues to nibble at me. I'm not saying my musings here are right or wrong. They're just thoughts. Questions. What-if's.

When I attended the non-denominational church, my life was a hectic whirl of activity. Not only was I at church services Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night -- but at Bible study groups and ministry meetings throughout the week. It was a roller-coaster ride of finding out what my spiritual gifts were and then finding places to use them. Or even if I wasn't exercising my gifts, to volunteer for something. No matter what, the message from the church seemed to be: Don't just sit there, do something!

Yesterday, I did some searching on the Internet for my old church and also, another search on my first Vineyard pastor that greatly influenced me. I found a blog that included an interview from one of the pastors and admittedly, felt a sense of relief that my choice of "living church" is more subdued. During the interview, my old pastor said this regarding home churches: We help them to prepare for an encounter with God and His Word.

And I wondered: is this the purpose of church? To me this approach seems backwards. I've always believed that we come to church to worship God first. As we focus on Him, perhaps He may speak to our hearts. Or maybe not. But my decision to attend church is to give worship to Him, not to get something from Him; which may sound snippy but that's not my intent. I love it when I sense God speaking to me through the reading of Scripture or a specific moment in the liturgy. I love those times when I know I'm receiving a revelation of His truth and so very often, they are small but precious, like a diamond. His truth, at least the way I get it, is usually something small but powerful. Like realizing suddenly that my vocation is marriage or how we as a church are to offer God our lives in sacrifice (during the liturgy's offertory).

I don't receive these types of revelations all the time, which I'm fine with. I cherish them when I do. But most of the time, I'm there to worship Him, thank Him, and rejoice with all the saints that we are so loved.

One of my old pastors is affiliated with a Christian college. I found the college's website online and listened to a few videos of the worship band. I couldn't even listen all the way through. The musical style reminds me too much now of the 70's folk tunes. In fact, the style hasn't seemed to have changed much during the past twenty years. It's this dreamy, breathy kind of music that typically has a young "twentysomething" woman holding a mic close to her mouth while her eyes are closed and she's repeating the refrain hypnotically.

It just feels too "me-ish." But maybe it doesn't matter because she's in the place she needs to be during this time in her life. For me, it's only another reminder of how much I've changed; how far into the interior spiritual life I've gone. The music I prefer now is Gregorian chant or classical hymns like Panis Angelicus.

I'm also suspecting that my perspective on church has changed as I've grown older. Before, I liked all the excitement of a large worship band, thumping out a rousing twenty minutes of worship music. Now I want silence. I like being in a pew, kneeling, while everyone else is silent, recognizing there is a time and place for focusing on God.

Have you recognized changes in yourself regarding how you look at church? Has anything shifted for you?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Joy Behar, Bullying, Joel Osteen, the Bible, and Homosexuality #Catholic

Let's take a look at the definition for bully, from Merriam-Webster's Dictionary:

Bully (verb)
bul·lied bul·ly·ing
Definition of BULLY
transitive verb
1: to treat abusively 2: to affect by means of force or coercion

intransitive verb
: to use browbeating language or behavior : bluster

I like to check the dictionary for clarification of a word's meaning, and in this case, it is necessary since people like Joy Behar are trying to redefine the word "bully" to fit their own agenda. To wit:

On November 4, Joel Osteen appeared as a guest on the television program, The View, to promote his new book, It's Your Time. Osteen reminds me a bit of Robert Schuller. He's upbeat, positive, and focuses on God's love for us. However, the "shrews of The View" couldn't resist yet another opportunity to attack Christianity. Specifically, Joy Behar showed a breathtaking amount of hubris by accusing Christians of "bullying" homosexuals by believing the Bible.

From Newsbusters:

ABC's "The View" hosted pastor Joel Osteen Tuesday, author of the book The Christmas Spirit – but the conversation took a controversial turn and went from Christmas to homosexuality. Co-host Joy Behar belittled Osteen about his conservative Christian beliefs on the matter.

ABC's Barbara Walters first popped the question in the middle of the interview, flagging it was a "controversial" topic. She referenced a previous quote made by Osteen on the show about homosexuality not being "God's best" for a person's life. Walters asked him how he felt about a Georgia pastor who recently came out and said he was gay.

After Osteen's tepid response, Behar interrupted him and flatly lectured him that homosexuality is natural. "It's not a choice, Pastor," she asserted. "It's not a choice, and therefore I don't think that God would look askance at homosexuality in that way, because it's not a choice. They're born this way, people are born this way."

When Osteen tried to respond, the comedian-cum-theologian butted in again to assert that "the Christian church should embrace that notion." She later accused Osteen of being a part of the gay bullying problem, telling him that his Biblical interpretation of homosexuality leads to bullying.

"But when you say that the Bible is against gays, that makes people get bullied, and bad things happen to people because of what the people say about that," she told Osteen.

After Behar further interrupted the guest to make her point, Osteen defended his church's stance and said that it welcomes all sinners. "If you came to our church, Joy, you would see people from all walks of life," he explained. "We're for everybody, we're not against people."

"We're not for bullying," he added. "I mean, if you follow our ministry at all, we're for uplifting people. But there's the Scripture that we can't necessarily change."

Co-host Whoopi Goldberg also joined the debate, quoting Scripture to try to prove that God doesn't judge, so neither should humans judge homosexuals. "I really believe that God said very clearly 'No one else can judge you, but Me'," Goldberg expressed.

Full article and transcript

So.... who is bullying whom?

I am getting fed up with these types of attacks on our Christian faith. And Joy Behar's bullying tactics are repugnant; exposing her hypocrisy for being "against" bullying when in fact she herself is a bully when anyone doesn't agree with her position. Her faulty logic is so full of holes and erroneous presumptions that it was amazing Osteen didn't laugh in her face. For instance:

Behar says people are "born gay." They are not. To this day, a "gay gene" has not be discovered. Plus, Behar and Goldberg overlook the fact that many women deliberately decide to live a lesbian lifestyle as a commitment to their anti-male beliefs. I read a book by a Mormon woman who was married. She started asking questions in her church, which didn't make her popular. Her husband was told, in so many words, to rein her in. He was unsuccessful. They ended up getting a divorce and the woman entered therapy with a female psychologist.

After some time, this woman decided to begin an affair with her female psychologist. Her reason? After allowing her resentment of men to reach a boil, she defiantly claimed that she was removing her mind and resources from a male-dominated society; and this included removing her body from being "sexually used" by men. It was a deliberate decision on her part.

I've also said that in the Bible, if God is going to call something an abomination, how much sense does it make for Him to force someone to live such a life by causing them to be born that way? (Lev. 18:22, Lev. 20:13) He wouldn't and He doesn't. Some critics have said that since we don't sacrifice cattle anymore, the Laws of the Old Testament are nullified; as though following one means that all the others must be followed. But in fact, there are three types of Law defined in Leviticus and Deuteronomy- priestly law, civil law, and moral law. Although the priestly law and civil law is not observed by modern society, moral law has not been abolished, for it represents the character of God. Since God is holy and sovereign; and does not change, neither has His moral laws. Homosexuality is also condemned in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Romans 1:26-28. We didn't add anything to Scripture. It is what it is and it's been around for a very, very long time.

Whoopi Goldberg thought she won the point by saying God is the only one who can judge and that "no one else can judge" but God. Well, she's partially right, according to St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (emphasis mine):
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men; not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber--not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. "Drive out the wicked person from among you."

The Christian is to realize that outside the Church, there are the unsaved, trapped in sin and separated from God. Indeed, they will be judged (as we all will) when we stand before Him in the afterlife. But once a person enters the Church, it's a different story. Then they are held to God's standards, not the world's; and it is incumbent upon them to obey His word.

Christians are being bullied by the gay activists because we do not believe homosexuality is natural. We also believe that according to God's law, it is an abomination. This is a very hard truth. Many of us have family members or friends who are a homosexual or lesbian. But I don't know of any of my Christian friends who deliberately hang out at gay bars and call down fire and brimstone. Most Christians understand that sexuality is one of the toughest areas in which to submit to God. But we're called to surrender it, nonetheless.

Finally, I wish I could send this message to Hollywood and everyone else who is attacking the Church on this issue: Recognize boundaries. The world and the church are two separate entities. Our country has a history of enforcing a separation between church and state; and although the First Amendment of the Constitution never said that the state is to be free of religion, it does say the government should not force religion upon any citizen.

You can't have it both ways, Hollywood. You can't keep screaming at the top of your lungs that the Church can't erect nativity scenes on federal property, display the Ten Commandments in a judicial building, or hold prayer meetings during city council; yet insist that the Church reflect the world's value system. The Church is not a democracy. It does not submit to the world's system because the world's system conflicts with the Kingdom of God. In fact, it is diametrically opposed to God's divine plan.

So to "demand" that the Church start marching to the tune of the world is completely laughable. Yes, our current culture can bring lawsuits against Christians if they don't want to do business with homosexuals or lesbians (Which emphasizes my earlier question: who really is the bully?). Most of the time these cases go to court, gay activism wins. And if it is truly discrimination, those cases should win. But too often, there is an intentional aim to totally destroy anyone who does not agree with the gay activists.

After going through some soul-searching of my own, here are my positions:

1) I do not believe in gay marriage, because marriage is a sacrament of the Church. It is meant for those who have surrendered their lives to God through the sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ. I do, however, believe in civil unions. If this will give the individuals involved the rights to be involved in health-care issues and receive benefits, fine. To me, that seems to be the main point, anyway. If gays, who for many years have lambasted and vilified the Church for their doctrines suddenly now want the sanction of the Church, one must ask why? It makes no sense. Stick with civil unions.

2) I have no problem doing business with gays, lesbians, transsexuals, transgendered, or little green men from Mars. It's not my place to judge you. You're outside of the Church and will have to answer to God someday. However, if you do start going to church (and especially if you join the Roman Catholic Church), then you're going to be faced with many doctrines that will require obedience. Meanwhile, my prayer is that all would consider the claims of Jesus Christ and be open to being changed for the Kingdom of God.

3) I do have a problem with bullying on any level. Sixty years ago, homosexuals didn't appreciate being put in a closet, have snide comments made about them, or worse -- physically attacked. Guess what? No one likes this type of treatment. If you believe that it's time you've been let out of the closet, don't try forcing Christians into one. Christianity has been around a heck of lot longer than you've been in a closet and will be around long after you're dead. Live and let live. People have differences of opinion and if it's not affecting you directly, then let it go. The clothing industry isn't trying to force Mormons to wear hot pink underwear in their temples or trying to get the Jainist Digambaras to wear clothes, period. So stop trying to bully other people into believing what you believe. Just because some groups believe that I'm a "white devil" doesn't mean I obsess on trying to prove them wrong. It's a waste of time and an infringement on the freedoms this country enjoys.

So Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg, the next time you want to start tearing apart the Church because it doesn't answer to you; remember to Whom it does answer. And I'll give you a hint.

It's not Hollywood.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why Can't Parishioners Know When To Shut Up? #Catholic

I'm talking about arriving ten minutes before Mass and finding the sanctuary filled with the sounds of a subdued suburban mall instead of silence for a sacred space. Several parishes I've visited have had people yakking to one another as though they're in a town hall rather than a place for prayer and meditation.

Is what I have to say to my neighbor so important that it can't wait until after Mass has ended?

Recently, I visited my father and stepmother in Florida. Both are very devout Catholics. They told me about their chatty parishioners, so I was prepared. At least I thought I was. We arrived about five minutes before Mass and filed into a pew near the sanctuary. In the pew in front of us, a couple were chatting animatedly with a gentleman who was sitting in the pew in front of them; and was turned almost completely around as his arm extended casually on the top of the wooden pew. My father and his wife wasted no time in shushing them. "Psst.. quiet, please. We're trying to pray."

I was slightly surprised that this little social gathering didn't even take a breath when realizing newcomers were kneeling behind them. To their credit, they did immediately stop chatting when asked to pipe down, but for the love of pete, they had to be asked? What has happened to the Catholic Church?

I remember when I was younger and the nasty looks we'd get from our teachers if we tried to whisper something to our neighbor. I also remember the first time I heard clapping during a Mass. I was mortified. It wasn't because I didn't like clapping or celebrating. It was because I was raised to see Mass as a very holy and silent hour within a busy week.

When you think of it like that -- that Mass is only one hour (and for us blessed with a Latin Mass, an hour and twenty minutes), is it too much to expect those who attend to be silent and respectful of that time?

Our society has become even chattier with the addition of technology. So not only do we have that old relic of a standby -- the telephone; we now have the Internet, email, text messaging, and even location-based social media services so we can let everyone on the planet know that we're at a McDonald's in Ashland, Kentucky and enjoying the Best. Fries. Ever. There seems to be an ever-increasing need to talktalktalk and let everyone know what we're thinking during every waking moment, everyday.

If you suspect I have a few drops of contemplative blood in my veins, you'd be correct.

But I'm also half-Italian; which means I can jawbone like a Southerner at a family reunion. However, chalk it up either to my upbringing or my temperament, I know there are times to be silent. Mass, certainly, is one of those times.

One time I was visiting my brother in Cincinnati. I had left to return to Columbus, but not before attending Mass. I visited my father's parish and arrived about twenty minutes early. I thought I'd spend some quality time in prayer and silence. I entered the church, and made my way to an empty pew. I passed two women a few pews back. One was sitting and the other was standing alongside the pew, in the aisle. They were chatting in normal voices as though they were in a grocery store. I thought once I knelt they'd at least lower their voices, if not stop altogether. Nope. Nothing was going to interrupt their little tête à tête. I don't think I lasted a minute before I got up and walked out. I realized I'd be really early for the only Latin Mass in town, and even though it was out of my way, I headed toward that parish. The silence was entirely worth it.

I think it says something about us as a Church when we can't stop thinking about ourselves for just one hour so we can focus totally on God. I include myself in this because I still have moments when I'm distracted. I also think that engaging in social conversation within what is supposed to be sacred space, sets a bad precedent.

It shows a complete lack of regard and sensitivity for our fellow parishioners. How do we know what is going on in someone's life? Attending Mass that morning may be the only peace they will experience for an entire week. Pouring out our heart to God in preparation for Mass is not easy. It is so much easier not to face our frailties, our shortcomings, and our sins. It is easier to shrug off the suffering of the world in order to focus instead on The Me Show. Placing the needs of others above our own while setting aside our own preferences is a beautiful act of worship that we can give God.

I know this is a huge issue. I have a great deal of empathy for our priests who realize the problem but not sure how to solve it. My father's parish had the announcements before Mass and there was an admonishment to remember to be quiet because people were trying to pray. (Good night. Didn't we learn anything in kindergarten?)

I have a feeling that the only way things will change is if a few brave priests spend time on the subject during their homilies, and when other parishioners start to do what my father and stepmother did -- pointedly reminding people that they're not at a baseball game.

I know not all Catholic parishes are like this. But I can't help but wonder that if a congregation cannot recognize that the time to pay homage to the mystery of our faith, once a week, for one hour, is during Mass - then when is that time?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Noteworthy Blog: Orwell's Picnic and Her Dead-On Pieces on Feminism #Catholic

A friend of mine recommended the blog "Orwell's Picnic." I remember reading it and instantly liking the opinions of its author, Hilary Jane Margaret White. Recently, a blog post of hers was featured on Pew Sitter and I loved it. The post, "A Hateful Ideology," showcased a video where a U.K. psychologist and Men's Rights activist said, "There's no way I would regard feminism as anything but an evil in our society."

Hilary Jane may categorize her post under the title "Why I don't like women," but she is one woman I do like. And there are many others who share the same opinion: that radical feminism has brought destruction and misery in to society.

I'm a very strong, independent woman, myself. But in my early days of being drawn to feminism, I quickly sensed something wasn't completely right. I didn't want to see men as the "enemy" but simply wanted my talents and expertise compensated fairly. I also am not the kind of personality that welcomed a full tank of anger and as I started to visit feminist events, I saw first-hand several patterns: women were either angry, frustrated, or depressed. None of these traits were attractive to me. Years later, as I've watched feminists gain more and more "rights" (sometimes at the expense of men's rights), I thought I'd finally see some satisfaction from their ranks. Not a chance.

Instead, it seems that many of these women are caught in a relentless wheel of dissatisfaction and that any victory they achieve is only celebrated for moments before cranking out more demands to be seen as equal. Equality, in my eyes, has been reached. Discrimination is not nearly as much of a problem as it was, say, in the sixties. I am grateful for this but yet am amazed that many of these radical feminists cannot rest and enjoy what has happened. Instead there is this joyless trudging through life as though a battle-ready existence is much more preferable to relishing peace-time.

Women do have the ability to influence society for the good. (Instead of embracing oppressive philosophies such as socialism.) But more women who reject feminism need to start becoming involved by sharing their views with their own families, friends, and within their churches. I continue to think of our Blessed Mother when I think of feminism. She was truly feminine, not weak at all but full of God's grace, bestowed upon her through humility. She didn't insist on her own way but instead surrendered to God everything. She trusted Him above all things and was used as His instrument in bringing salvation to the world. There are so many lessons women can learn from her that can enrich our lives.

Hilary Jane has more posts under the category "why I don't like women" but I fully understand her reasoning. Over the past sixty years in the U.S., there has been a systematic attack on the traditional family, in which women played a core role. Once you get a woman confused and dissatisfied, the structure of the family unit is weakened. It is, in my mind, evil -- and straight from the pit of hell. The devil sought to destroy the birth of Jesus and it has been the same ever since. The devil seeks death and destruction. Feminism is his tool.

If you find yourself in agreement, I heartily recommend visiting Orwell's Picnic. Hilary Jane has some very interesting thoughts on the topic.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

There Is Healing After Abortion #prolife

I came across this article, which has a woman speaking about her decision to have an abortion and the consequences of that afterward. I am saddened by the pain that these women have gone through, often pressured to have an abortion by either the father of the child or a parent. I mourn the loss of life. But perhaps if more voices like this make it to our local newspapers, there is the opportunity to save someone else from making the same mistake.

For the first several months after the abortion, Thompson said it was “very difficult for me to see a baby.” She supported a woman’s choice to have an abortion, noting “it was the thing to do.” It wasn’t until later that she realized “it was nothing but to cover the pain and anguish” of her own abortion. She also considered suicide.

Years later, Thompson married and had a child. She later became pregnant again, but lost that child through a miscarriage, an experience she said was sent to her by God.

“The child I lost in a miscarriage was the same age of the aborted child,” she recalled. “That’s when life really became worse for me. I realized what had been bothering me.”

Thompson, who had strayed from her Catholic upbringing, returned to the Church. She sought forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and attended a retreat through Project Rachel, the Church’s ministry to those who have experienced an abortion.

Today, the member of St. Ferdinand Parish in Florissant helps organize the semi-annual 40 Days for Life campaign, an effort which calls on people of all faith backgrounds to pray and fast for an end to abortion. Among their duties, participants take turns keeping a prayer vigil outside of the local Planned Parenthood abortion facility during the 40 days of the campaign.

I've had some conversations with a fellow co-worker who strongly believes in a "woman's right to choose." A favorite example of hers is asking what if a young 11 year-old girl was raped and then got pregnant? Wouldn't abortion be a more compassionate choice? I disagreed with her.

I said, "I would much rather see that girl give birth than condemn her to a life of pain and sorrow by putting her through something much more traumatic, which would be to undergo the horrific experience of an abortion. Abortion not only kills the baby, it emotionally and spiritually kills a woman."

My co-worker doesn't bring it up too often. But there are hundreds of thousands of women all across our nation who think like she does. Speak life, love life, bring life to all you do.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

'America' Magazine's Name Calling of #Catholic Conservative Bloggers Misses Mark

America Magazine recently published an article written by Fr. James Martin regarding another article about conservative Catholic bloggers. I will start off by saying that I will strive for charity in my observations.

I agree with Fr. Martin regarding the overall tone of the Internet. When I first visited the Internet in 1997, it didn't take long to discover the virtual alley fights that occurred within the comment areas of online opinion pieces. It didn't bother me too much, though. Those who only commented to taunt and bait people, I learned, were called "trolls." They were often mocked and newcomers were told to "please don't feed the trolls." In other words, they were to be ignored.

I've ignored my share of trolls and also occasionally responded to their complete lack of intellectual honesty. But something is happening now within the Catholic blogosphere that I think is disingenuous. Which leads me to the article from America Magazine.

I was half-tempted to register with them just to leave a comment before saying, why bother? The slant of the article was offensive enough for a conservative Catholic and I'm not yet ready to accept the premise of it -- which is: Conservative Catholic bloggers are unloving and should take the log out of their own eye before judging someone else.

Unloving and Judgmental?

I've seen this argument before. It's usually hauled out when another Christian wants to defend either an erroneous belief or sin. Fr. Martin's position seems to indicate that constructive criticism is only available to those with a bunch of letters behind their names:
Second, many of these attack-bloggers betray little theological knowledge. It is one thing to be informed by a theological scholar with years of relevant experience working at the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for example, that your article or book or lecture is not in keeping with the tenets of the Catholic faith. Or to have your work critiqued by someone who has carefully considered your arguments and, after weighing what you say regarding the tradition, responds in charity. It is quite another to be attacked with snide comments by someone barely out of college who spends his days cherry-picking quotes and thumbing through the Catechism in an endless game of Catholic gotcha.

This line of reasoning is at complete odds with the belief that examination of the Church is for everyone -- not just those with a theological background. If I remember correctly, Jesus didn't hang out with the "theological" gurus of His day, He hung out with those who would receive Him, the simple as well as the wise. In fact, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is simple, although this does not mean easy. Centuries ago, it was an accepted belief by many Catholics that "only the priest" could read the Bible and tell them what it meant. I'll never forget when I attended a "Christ Renews His Parish" retreat with my mother; we were given our own Bibles and an elderly woman exclaimed in shock, "Oh, no! I can't read this! Only the priest can and then tell me its meaning!"

She was reassured by the retreat leaders that indeed, the Bible was written for her because God would use it to draw her closer to Him. So in other words, every Catholic has two very important books to help us draw closer to God and receive the graces of the Church: The Bible and the Catechism. As far as I'm concerned, I don't need to be working at the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in order to know what is aligned with Catholic doctrine and what isn't. All of the doctrine is clearly defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This was the whole point of having the Catechism. The fact that criticism is coming from "someone barely out of college" who uses the Catechism for direction (in which case I say "hoorah!" for that devoted young person), doesn't matter. What matters is upholding the truth of Catholicism.

And, it goes without saying but I'll say it anyway, to speak that truth in love.

Narrow-minded? Or Committed to Fidelity to the Church?

Fr. Martin continues:
Third, the focus of their blogs is almost risibly narrow. Here are the sole topics of interest, in the order in which they cause foaming at the mouth (or on the keyboard): homosexuality, abortion, women's ordination, birth control, liturgical abuses and the exercise of church authority. Is this really the sum total of what makes us Catholic?

Again, a disingenuous argument. It assumes that speaking of hot-button social issues is "narrow" and by implication, unloving. And, unfortunately, it is hypocritical. Who in the Church is championing the cause of active homosexuality? Who has been on an unerring track to pursue women's ordination? Who has said one can be Catholic and pro-choice at the same time? And who has been the biggest instigators of liturgical abuses? Certainly not conservative Catholics. In every one of those areas, it has been liberal Catholics who have rejected Church teaching, tradition, and Biblical instruction, in order to embrace worldly (and often sinful) philosophies that bring division and confusion to the Church.

Criticizing cultural issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion is a moral cause, and one I thought as Catholics we were called to challenge. When we see Catholic high schools not only accepting practicing homosexuality by their students but actively promoting it; you bet conservative Catholics are going to speak up. And we don't need a degree from a pontifical college to know it's wrong.

When those criticized respond by saying such challenges are "unloving" and "judgmental," I can only refer them to the Bible. Jesus Christ said many hard things during His time on earth. Was it loving to cast out the money-changers from the temple? Shouldn't He instead have said, "Gentlemen, this isn't the place for such activity, for it is a holy place. Please, kindly take your tables and merchandise elsewhere. Thanks." Would that have made an impact?

Jesus was angry and there was no mistaking it. He took the road of unleashing His righteous anger because of His love for His Father and a desire to see Him glorified outweighed His concern for offending people. He was upset that an area which was to be a place for worship and meditation was instead transformed into the equivalent of a busy mall.

I see conservative Catholic bloggers in the same light. They have endured many, many years of seeing the Mother Church maligned by those who would not defend her against the world. Yes, there is anger and frustration. I've already seen attempts by faithful Catholics to appeal to their bishop, often to no avail. There have been efforts by many to first write to their priest, and then write to their bishop if they didn't receive a response. There have been times when these same conservative Catholics tried to meet with the proper authorities to share their concerns. And the responses? They've varied from being ignored to condescension to at times, outright hostility toward those who refuse to march in lockstep with the "culturally-correct" view.

There have been orthodox seminarians who have been kicked out of their training because they didn't believe in women's ordination or recited the Rosary. There have been radical, feminist, lesbian nuns who seem to find more meaning in New Age practices than Catholic devotions. There have been faithful young Catholic graduates who can't find a job teaching in a Catholic high school because they're "too conservative" and thus, "narrow-minded."

The list goes on. In most of those cases, Catholics have looked to their priests and bishops to defend the Church and Catholic doctrine only to be dismissed and at times, mocked. One only needs to read The National Catholic Reporter to see the depth of the problem. Thankfully, not all priests and bishops respond in such manner. Many of them are faithful and understand the dilemma, often counseling their flock to love, to forgive, and to continue to uphold the truth.

The truth of the matter is that the Internet has finally given a voice to conservative Catholics and they're using it. No longer content to wait for a response from either a priest or bishop, Catholics have taken to the blogosphere to vent their frustration and question certain Catholic leaders' allegiance to the Magisterium. In fact, these Catholics (and I'm one of them) are exercising their "judgment of moral conscience" which, according to the Catechism, encourages a Catholic to do good and avoid evil.

1777 Moral conscience, 48 present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil. 49 It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.

1778 Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law:

Conscience is a law of the mind; yet [Christians] would not grant that it is nothing more; I mean that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise. . . . [Conscience] is a messenger of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ. 50

Finally, a Call for Action

What I believe conservative Catholic bloggers desire is for their church leaders to stand strong against a world that is increasingly hostile to the faith. If the Church looks like the world, and acts like the world, is it still the Church? We indeed are to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, and yes, this involves sacrificial living and compassionately caring for the sick and wounded in our culture. But it also includes setting the captive free.

I loved my re-entry into Catholicism. I had finally made the decision to formally return to the Catholic Church after wrestling with it for a year. I made an appointment with a parish priest (who would end up being my parish priest) to discuss the issue. From my investigative efforts online, I realized that my husband's prior marriage could end up as a sticking point regarding my return and obtaining the Church's convalidation of our marriage. After confirming that I would need an annulment, this dear priest leaned across the table to look me directly in the eye and say, "I know it's difficult. But aren't you glad the Catholic Church cares about you enough to tell you the hard truth?"

I said, "Absolutely. And you know what I feel? Loved. Because I know the Catholic Church cares about my soul."

The priest smiled compassionately. The truth had been told to me in a loving manner, but it was uncompromising.

And that, ultimately, is what we as Catholics should all desire. That in a world full of darkness, the Church would shine the light and be steadfast in her mission -- to bring the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ to the poor, the needy, the lonely, and yes -- those entrapped in sin. Part of that mission includes confrontation. I pray that we continue to have meaningful dialogue, but make no mistake. That dialogue needs to be recognized and respected by all, no matter which side of the pew you occupy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Regarding #Catholic Bloggers Putting Pressure on Diocesan Officials

I think Michael Voris frames it well.

When a deacon, priest, bishop, archbishop or cardinal blatantly rejects Catholicism's position on moral, political, and religious issues; it's time to have a little heart-to-heart. And hopefully that talk will come from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Is it really surprising that conservative Catholics want to see the traditions of our faith supported by our bishops? And speaking of "charity," where is the charity for those who desire the tradition of the Church as seen in the Gregorian Rite? (Traditional Latin Mass, also known as the Tridentine Mass.) Where is the charity for Catholics who support the Catechism on issues such as abortion or homosexuality? I myself have seen little but I'm still new at this. Charity is one thing but to coddle sin is another. And that's what I've seen far too many do -- coddle sin at the cost of one's soul. As Fr. Corapi has said, "I'm not going to hell for anyone!"

We need to speak the truth, no matter how unpopular it is in our culture. Speak it lovingly, but speak it. What parent looks at their child who has a serious injury and simply says, "I love and accept you." That is not going to help their child.

Instead, a loving parent will say, "You are hurt and your injury needs attention. The doctor will clean your wound to remove anything that could cause infection, and then stitch you up so you'll heal quickly. It will be uncomfortable for awhile but in the long run, you're going to be healthy."

That's the kind of parents we need. Thank God I had those kind of parents. But our beloved Mother Church needs exactly those kind of parents, too.

Pray for our church leaders, that they will not confuse compassion with complicity; and that they may be given eyes to see who God has called them to be. Stand strong.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A #Catholic Challenging the Culture: Blindly Following?

A recent article from NBC Chicago, featured a poll showing younger people as more devout to Catholicism than older people, referencing a story in The Chicago Tribune. The poll was conducted by Fr. Andrew Greeley, based on 500 respondents in Chicago's Cook and Lake counties in 2007. The newspaper story led with the youth angle, but in the NBC piece, there was a paragraph that said more than the words chosen (emphasis mine):
"The study also discusses “Cafeteria Catholics,” those who still revere the sacraments, but don’t blindly follow the church's teachings on moral, religious and political issues."

Why the phrase "blindly follow?" And how presumptuous is such a statement? I have seen this phrase used frequently, usually by those who have no understanding of the Catholic Church or her doctrine.

I am Catholic. As a Catholic, I am to trust the wisdom and authority of the Church. Does this mean I have checked my brain at the door? Of course not. Catholics are not known for "blindly following" anything. Catholicism has given us some of the brightest and most intellectual minds throughout history and have questioned everything from faulty science to prickly social justice issues. But to assume that since I follow the church's teachings on moral, religious, and political issues means I'm "blind," and by inference, incapable of thinking, is to assume several things. First, that the Church is wrong, and second, that trust and obedience are for suckers. It is highly offensive and insulting to those of us who know full well what we follow and why.

I am weary of these attacks on the Magisterium. There is something that goes deeper with trusting in the Church's teachings and it is a topic I've covered before. Trust requires surrender. It requires putting aside my doubts and asking God for the grace to believe. "I believe, help my unbelief!"

This isn't just a cry from a man thousands of years ago who pled with Jesus Christ for the ability to trust Him, but it is for all of us. Who wrestles with the Church's teachings except those who have not yet reached that level of trust? It certainly isn't easy to trust when we live in a culture that promotes sexuality without responsibility, religion on our own terms, and politics that aggressively pushes an anti-family, anti-God humanism no matter what the cost. These beliefs and philosophies have infiltrated the Church with an agenda that is not God's. It is actually an agenda that promotes, as Pope John Paul II said, a "culture of death."

I'd like to suggest a different phrase: "trustingly follow." I trust that those who in authority over me know what they're doing. If not, they're the ones who have to answer to God. Our hierarchy of Church government has a solemn job to do. They seek God for direction and make choices. I am called to trust their wisdom and to continually pray for them. They do their job. I do mine.

"Blind" is not even remotely a part of the equation.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

From Real #Catholic TV: Archbishop Raymond Cardinal Burke: Sex and Obedience

I am so excited that Archbishop Burke has been named a Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI! Michael Voris has another powerful video regarding something Archbishop Burke said -- that those who fall into sexual sin are reaping the fruit of disobedience.

This is a profound statement. Voris claims that the Catholic Church will not experience a return of those who left until the clerics start becoming more obedient. I couldn't agree more.

Years ago, when I was attending the University of Dayton, which is a Marianist college, I visited with a priest to discuss with him intimacy, sex, and marriage. I was expecting traditional Catholic counsel. What I received instead was this regarding pre-marital sex: "As long as you really love someone, it can be offered as an act of worship to God." Not "Prayerfully consider whether you are called to the vocation of marriage, for such a vocation protects the sacredness of the sexual union between a man and a woman." Nothing of the sort. Instead, the priest was "thrilled" to speak to a student about such things and communicated a perspective on sexuality that, now looking back, was in direct conflict with the Bible and the Magisterium.

Is it any wonder that many Catholics left the Church? If the Church preached nothing different than the world, then what was the point of waking up early every Sunday to attend Mass? Especially if one was nursing a hangover?

Many have mocked "Catholic guilt" as though Catholics seen sex as "sinful" and if they enjoy it outside of marriage, then they are "burdened" with guilt. How warped a view! God created sex for procreation and as a sacramental bond between a husband and wife. Our "hooking up" culture, where sex is seen as a recreational sport, has only resulted in brokenness, contributing to a low self-esteem, and encouraged those who engage in such activity to only look to their own satisfaction as they use others for their pleasure.

I wasn't a popular young woman. Mainly because I refused to sleep around. Even after I left the Catholic Church, the foundation of Catholic doctrine stayed with me. I understood that sex was to be celebrated within the bonds of marriage, and allowing a young man who had no intention of committing himself to a relationship with me, would only eventually hurt me and cheapen my view of myself. I wasn't entirely successful with my intentions. But the times I lapsed made me realize how important it was to find a husband who would cherish me. It took many years of singlehood before that happened, but once it did, I was brought into a fullness of understanding regarding true love and intimacy.

The world mocks such things because there is (again) sacrifice involved. It is a sacrifice to say "no" when everyone else seems to be saying yes -- and having such a great time doing it. It is a sacrifice to wait until marriage. It is a sacrifice to be called to the vocation of Holy Orders and deny yourself. Jesus said "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34 RSV) Those aren't easy words. They are words that are as sharp as the nails that were driven through the hands and feet of our Blessed Lord. A commandment that clearly says submission and obedience. The rewards of following Christ cannot be overestimated. Those who submit their will to His receive many graces, some that can be seen in this world and others, I believe, will be unfolded after we pass into everlasting life.

I pray that the Church will begin to hold the standard high once again for sexual purity. The enemy of our souls knows how important this area is, which is why he is fighting so hard to deceive people and to keep them trapped in his lies. Lord, have mercy.

North Texas #Catholics Get an F.S.S.P. Parish for the Latin Mass

Mater Dei Catholic Church, local home of the traditional Latin Mass, will be in its own sanctuary for the first time.

Bishop Kevin Farrell of the Diocese of Dallas will come to Irving this morning to bless a former Korean Methodist church building that had a $600,000 makeover to become Mater Dei's worship space.

The location would seem unlikely for the only Diocese of Dallas church where Latin liturgy is the norm. Tractor-trailer trucks grind their gears on nearby East Highway 356. Neighbors include a Waffle House and a body shop.

But Mater Dei has doubled attendance to 600 at two Sunday Masses since buying the property last December and beginning to meet in the fellowship hall.

Mater Dei leaders believe the sanctuary will only boost the pace of growth.

In 1991, the Mater Dei (Latin for "mother of God") community formed in Dallas in connection with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in North America, which is committed to the traditional Latin Mass. That group met in borrowed space, including for more than 17 years in the chapel of a local convent.

Full Article

This is very exciting news! God bless those in North Texas who love the Traditional Latin Mass and now have a home. And 600? That is wonderful!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Revisiting Suffering: A Catholic Perspective

Suffering isn't a pleasant topic. I'll be the first to admit it. But suffering, according to God, has value. Great value, in fact. And suffering -- without considering what God thinks of it, provides the justification to avoid it at all costs and more horrifically, depending upon society's "understanding" of it, justifying euthanasia.

Recently, Virginia Ironside, a U.K. advice columnist, stunned a TV host by admitting that if she had a suffering child (then she emphasized, "A deeply suffering child..") she would be "the first to want to put a pillow over its head," presumably to put the child out of his misery. Another guest, Rev. Joanna Jepson, looked on in horror as Ironside shared her view in a chillingly calm manner.

I was intrigued by Jepson, whose background was not explained during this short video.

Rev. Joanna Jepson was born with a congenital jaw defect. Her upper jaw protruded by eight millimeters and her lower jaw hung down into her neck. She described her appearance as "looking like a chipmunk" and had to wait until her teens before having reconstructive surgery. It was a long, painful process to reset her jaw, but she went through it, explaining that it allowed her to understand more fully human nature. In school, she was bullied because of her appearance and then later, after surgery, became part of the "pretty and popular" crowd.

What is profound is that she has gone through the valley and found her own mountaintop. It would have been very easy to have given up and given in to depression, but she didn't. She became a vicar for the Church of England, and later, championing the rights of the unborn when a baby was aborted in its 28th week because it had been discovered to have a cleft lip and palate; reason enough for the doctors to declare the baby as having a "serious handicap" and thus, should be aborted.

Jepson brought a legal challenge against the doctors and raised the question: just what is "handicapped" anyway? And more importantly, why see only the negative of handicaps?

Another case of a handicapped person, which is much more severe, is that of Nick Vujicic. Nick is nothing short of amazing in my book. He was born without limbs. He is now an inspirational speaker who travels around the world, speaking to schools and churches about not giving up. His trademark storytelling device is to deliberately fall to the ground and then roll back up, showing his audience how important it is to try again and not quit. (If you watch the video below, you will hear Nick talk about the importance of faith, and how his parents taught him to believe in God and God's purpose for his life. Very, very powerful.)

Think of how much Nick and Rev. Joanna Jepson have suffered. There are countless stories like theirs -- families who have had children with birth defects, these same children who grew to become adults in a society that worships youth and beauty; and the trials they have endured. The world, like Virginia Ironside, would say there is no point in such suffering, such hardship. Why not "put a child out of its misery?" But I challenge them all to consider Nick, for his voice is resonating with many young people.

They look at Nick and think that if a guy who was born without limbs could find purpose in his life, maybe they can, too. The fact that Nick is a Christian is a powerful testimony that he has found that suffering is not without its own frame of redemption. It is evident to me that he has pondered long and hard about the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ; and concluded that suffering has a deeper meaning. There is evil in the world. There is injustice. But the answer is not to avoid it or try to eradicate whatever we perceive as being unfair, cloaking it as a merciful act.

Within the Catholic Church, there is a saying: Everyone has their cross to bear. Each of us has been given a cross that we have not chosen, in order to further connect with Christ and His suffering. Jesus Christ willingly took the cross upon His shoulders, knowing that a greater purpose was at stake. So, too, we are asked by God to shoulder whatever cross He has given us in order to be transformed into the likeness of His Son. It is part of the journey.

Within those times of suffering, honest questions are asked (and sometimes shouted) to God. And when we surrender our preferences, our desires, our anger and frustration, we experience something miraculous that could not have happened otherwise: true joy and peace in Him. When we know that we have fully surrendered to God everything, He is then able to fill us with something the world will never be able to give -- contentment. We are then able to glimpse the truth of St. Paul in his letter to the Hebrews:

But we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for every one. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:9,10 RSV)

We are also made perfect through suffering, for what Christ has experienced, so is the call for His followers. This is what the world does not understand. To the world, suffering is to be avoided at all cost. For the believer in Christ, suffering is the cost for purchasing an incorruptible treasure, more precious than the sum of all the gold on earth.

Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. (Romans 5:2-5 RSV)

When a misguided society takes it upon itself to remove those who they decide are "suffering too much," they are removing the opportunity for that person to turn toward God and be radically changed. They are placing themselves in the position of God -- bestowing life upon those who in their eyes are "worthy" while dispensing with those who they feel are lacking. It is clear that they are morally and ethically wrong. But too often, the solution of expedience seems to trump morality.

There are wonderful people who are physically-challenged who rejected their circumstances as limiting their dreams and potential. I think of Joni Eareckson Tada, paralyzed from the neck down but whose delicate water-color paintings and Christian witness have touched thousands. (She also was diagnosed with breast cancer this past June and could use your prayers.) There is Christy Brown, the famous Irish author, painter, and poet who had cerebral palsy, and who had a film made of his life in My Left Foot. There is Charles Krauthammer, the brilliant doctor of psychiatry, political commentator and columnist, who was paralyzed from a diving accident while attending medical school. He continued his studies and graduated first class from the Harvard Medical School.

There are many others, those who have disabilities but yet have risen above their challenges to fulfill their dreams. (The families of those who are handicapped have also been given the opportunity to love in a seemingly hopeless situation.) The world would have been robbed of their gifts if someone said, "Well, I think it's an act of mercy to put this person out of their misery." Who defines misery? Certainly the world's definition is not God's.

Catholicism is the only place I have found that does not shrink from addressing the issue of suffering. In fact, many have celebrated it, even crying out to God, "I am not worthy!" For them, to identify so closely to Christ's sufferings is an honor, one that is held in awe. Many saints have rejoiced in their sufferings. I'm sure they would reject Virginia Ironside's perspective and counter it with a call to follow Christ.

In partnership with Catholicism's "culture of life" and all the efforts to preserve life, we must continue to voice our opposition to those who want to silence suffering, and the slippery slope it presents. Not too long ago, we had Dr. Kevorkian, who was justified by many for assisting in the suicide of someone suffering from physical pain. Is it any wonder that we now see our society contemplating killing someone because their suffering causes us pain? And does society's comfort level outweigh a person's right to life?

Catholics have a different answer and it brings life, not death.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Why I Was Originally Attracted to the Non-Denominational Church and Left the #Catholic Church

Just to be be clear, I am back with the Catholic Church, now.

I am pondering this topic because yesterday, after Mass, the Youth ministry director asked, "Why are there so many ex-Catholics in the non-denominational churches?"

I tried to explain my perspective, but felt that I didn't fully articulate the reasons. I remember meeting many ex-Catholics at my local Vineyard Christian Fellowship. In fact, I was quite amazed by how many there were. When I'd ask why they were there, the answers were usually the same: there was more "freedom" to worship God, they enjoyed the casual environment, they found the large offerings of Bible study groups to be stimulating. These comments were generally given by Catholics who were brought up in the 1960's and 70's.

Personally, I think many Catholics were starved for relationship. Out of everything I've experienced within the non-denominational church, I would say that the one place they got it right was with home Bible study groups. Within these groups, friendships form that challenge and support one another to live out their Christian beliefs in a tough world. Sharing one's stories with one another is to me, the secret. When you hear someone else's story, it provides several things: 1) You don't feel alone or isolated in your struggles because someone else is going through something similar and 2) You're able to encourage one another and be encouraged. This is one of the purposes of being a part of the Church. A body needs nourishment to be strong, and the Body of Christ is no different.

When I left the Catholic Church at age twenty, I was in search of "something more." In other words, the liturgy did not resonate with me. Attending Mass once a week wasn't "enough" because I was craving relationship with others who were serious about their relationship with God. I didn't know how to find them. Too often, people would bolt out the doors after Mass, many leaving right after receiving Communion. My parish didn't have a "coffee and doughnuts" time afterward. (Thankfully, my current parish does and this is how I have gotten to know so many of my fellow parishioners.)

The other attraction was, of course, the "coolness" factor of the non-denominational church. They had cool worship music. Cool musicians who were fun and, well... looked cool. We did cool things like wash cars for free to show people that God loved them and to open up conversations about their own relationship (or non-relationship) with God. There was a freshness about it to me. Sort of like a "Hmm, what happens when I push this button?" flavor to it. Because I am enormously curious (which only added to my wandering away from Catholicism to pursue other experiences), I was extremely attracted to these new approaches toward evangelism and fellowship.

All of these factors were extremely appealing to a young "twentysomething." I would say that the experimental aspect of non-denominational churches is foundational for young people in search of themselves and their beliefs. Because many younger people are open to "testing the waters," they seem to gravitate toward places that allow them to do this. If you visit a non-denominational church, you will notice that the majority of the congregation is below the age of 50. You will see very few "seventysomething" folks in a non-denominational church. And that's part of what I missed.

I have a deep love and respect for older people. When I was younger, I realized that we needed the wisdom and experience of older people but was disappointed that I couldn't find many in my non-denominational church. Somehow I knew that older people would help guide me, especially older women. However, I had to search for such people outside of my church membership.

I remember enjoying the freedom of being a part of a church that had no rigid rules or -- expectations. There was a fluidity to a Sunday service, and the attitude seemed to be: Be here if you can. Or don't. But you'll miss all the fun if you don't attend. The "fun" was roundly promoted. "I'll stop coming to church when it's fun," was a common phrase from the senior pastor. It propagated a perspective that church was primarily for my enjoyment. Many non-denominational churches look to other leisure pursuits such as golf or visiting malls as their "competition." Because of it, their evangelism efforts resemble marketing efforts to "re-brand" Christianity and church-going as a better way to spend your time.

Now that I've returned to the Catholic Church, I see things much more differently than I did at age twenty. (Thank God for the "with age, comes wisdom" adage.) I realized that during all those years, what I missed most about the Catholic Church was the Eucharist. And now I know why.

The Mass is known as "The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass." It is because each Mass is a journey that we remember over, and over again. We begin by acknowledging our sin. We ask for God's forgiveness and for the forgiveness of our brothers and sisters. We give glory to God. We listen and meditate upon God's Word. We ask Him to help us. We give thanks to Him for His gifts, most notably the Gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. We remember Jesus' life and death as the priest re-presents the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and then kneel in awe as the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We take and eat, knowing that we are eating "The Living Bread." (John 6:51) We thank God again for such an astounding gift. We meditate upon it, and then we sing a song of rejoicing. Then, we leave, being reminded to "go in peace" and to bring God's Good News to the world.

There is order, which to many young people equals boring. But the liturgy truly is anything but boring. There is meaning to every portion of it. Instead of the cotton-candy excitement of a talented worship band, Catholics have substance. Instead of the "anything-goes" mentality of many non-denominational services, Catholics have a purposeful trek. The altar is the focal point, not a stage.

For what it's worth, I learned much within the non-denominational church. And maybe I had to go through it in order to truly appreciate the treasure of the liturgy. At any rate, I remember feeling like I was holding onto the tail of a comet most of the time. Things would change so quickly within a non-denominational church and I often felt as though I was constantly trying to readjust.

I admit I love the Catholic Church with a surprised devotion. I never expected to find so much meaning, and to re-connect with a yearning I thought was satisfied with the non-denominational experiences. But here I am. Finding joy in the liturgy and intelligent challenges to help mature my faith. There is real "spiritual meat" in the Catholic Church, and you really don't have to look that hard to find it. Thank you, Lord, for showing me.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Yes, I'm Aiming Toward Freelancing

I've been busy the past few months as I've focused on developing my side graphic communication business. You might say, "Where do you get all this time to do so much stuff?" Well, the truth is, I don't have more time than anyone else. Obviously, I'm updating this blog less often as a result. So now you know why I don't blog more often, although I hope to someday add more posts.

However, at this time, I'm working a day job and then at night, developing my ideas. I attended a great free online conference to celebrate International Freelancers Day (September 24) and as a result, gathered a whole slew of new followers who are either freelancers themselves or working toward becoming one. (Welcome, and thanks for following me!)

If you're interested in what I'm doing, feel free to check my website, Bootstrap Graphic. I'm offering these services: logo design, copywriting, website design (I lean toward helping develop WordPress blogs), and print communication.

I'll share more later, but for now, I wanted to give you an update. :-)

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Failure of Liberal #Catholic High Schools

There is a battle heating up and the lines are being drawn. On one hand, I am sad for this battle, for it is one that should have been between the world and the Church. Instead it is the worldly church against the Truth. On the other hand, this battle is purifying the Church.

Despite charges against those who stand for what the Catholic Church believes (that homosexuality is a sin, but one who struggles with same-sex attraction is to be loved, and also challenged to live a chaste and obedient life to God), it is becoming clear who is willing to listen to truth and pursue it -- and those who are not. Supporting the gay agenda and ordination of women, have become our modern-day litmus test.

Contrary to supporters of active homosexual lifestyles, those who support the Catholic Church's position are not "intolerant" and "ignorant." It is not "ignorant" to uphold Biblical truth. or desire to see people set free from sin. It is not "ignorant" to love God to the point of surrendering our lives, turning away from what displeases Him, and trusting in His purpose for our life.

It is "ignorant," however, to avoid the truth of God's commandments for our lives and the counsel of the Catholic Church that seeks to keep our souls from falling into mortal sin.

I am finding that sin isn't mentioned too often by those who embrace the radical gay and feminist agendas. I even heard a horrifying story of one liberal priest scoff, "Sin? We don't believe in that, anymore."

Oh, really? Interestingly enough, God still believes in it and wrote an entire book called the Bible to educate us on it. He also sent His only Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross to free us from it. I don't think God would waste His time if sin was not a problem.

Last night, I read of the Sacred Heart School in Kingston, Massachusetts, who is just one example of a liberal school that has failed to impart Catholic doctrine to its students. In fact, I found the entire sordid tale appalling on several levels.

Here's the story: In May of this year, a graduating senior decided to write a story for the school newspaper about how some of the students were "in the closet" regarding their sexuality. Evidently he found several who were willing to talk to him about being either gay or bisexual. These were both young men and women who were students of a school that presents itself to its community as being Catholic.

Where was the principal? The teacher advisor? Who was driving this bus, anyway?

It turns out that the principal was fully aware of the newspaper story and gave permission to run with it.

Again - this is supposed to be a Catholic school.

The Sacred Heart High School administration approved the publication of the article in the school newspaper. The article directly contradicts Catholic teaching as it relates to issues of homosexuality, bisexuality, transgender behavior, God's merciful love, and sin. The teacher moderator of the student newspaper, Scott Dalton, approved the publication of this article, as did the principal, John Enos. The school newspaper is distributed at school and not published on the Web. In general, most parents who send their children to Sacred Heart School have no idea this article was ever published.


This story has now spilled over onto the Internet. You can follow the link above to read about one parent, Michael Kelly, share his tragic story of gathering with other concerned Catholic parents and confronting the school on this matter. The obstinacy, arrogance, and complete disregard for the parent's input on the Catholic education of their children is both bewildering and outrageous. Any parent who sends their children to a Catholic school can vouch for the sacrifices that are needed to do so. They send their children to a Catholic school precisely because they don't want the anti-God, anti-American, pro-abortion, pro-gay, pro-radical feminism indoctrination they would get with a public school. And Catholic school tuition isn't cheap.

And this is what is given to them? Unfortunately, there is more.

Her comment area was soon filled with vile, hateful accusations from the Catholic students of the school, and allegedly, of their parents. I will include one comment from a student, which speaks volumes:

As an academically rounded young woman and a Sacred Heart High School student, you disgust me and my bones shudder at the thought that you were not aborted.

So, now we can add a lack of teaching about abortion in the mix, in addition to a lack of teaching about homosexuality.

The rest of the comments are horrendous. Not only do they show the void of Catholic moral teaching, they show an absence of decent human discourse. Has no one taught these students how to debate reasonably without allowing emotions to control the argument? Evidently not. The students resort to ad hominem attacks, vulgar language, and hateful threats -- even going so far as to post Carol's address and telephone number.

This, my brothers and sisters, is the moral bankruptcy of liberal Catholicism.

It has failed to not only produce Catholic sons and daughters who understand their Catholic faith, it has rendered them incapable of being able to conduct themselves wisely in the world. This story should shame their parents, the administrators of this school, and the diocese. Bad fruit indeed, from a rotten tree.

It is by the grace of God that I am where I am in life. I attended an all-girls Catholic high school, but it was liberal. I remember our English teacher was gay. During a school dance, he brought his "partner." Nothing was said about it, but everyone knew. No attempts were made by our school to discourage it. In fact, I would often wonder why a Catholic school had a gay teacher to begin with. It was 1978.

Fast forward to today and the mess many of our seminaries are in, coupled with the sexual abuse cases by priests. Is this the fruit of Vatican II? I realize now that was not its intent, but obviously something went off the rails. I know of good Catholic teachers who have had trouble getting jobs in Catholic schools because they're too traditional. I've heard of some of these same teachers being fired from their posts because they presented pro-life curriculum or spoke out against homosexuality.

This is happening within Catholic schools.

Where will it stop? When Catholic schools start to hand out condoms and birth control pills?

It stops when Catholic identity becomes clear. It stops when parents get involved with their Catholic schools, checking the curriculum and attending meetings. It stops when it is exposed for what it is -- lies and deceit about our Catholic faith, and corrected with the truth.

I know I'll continue to do my part. May St. Michael gear up for battle and fight on our behalf because it will only continue to become worse unless we take a stand.

(Note: Comments will be moderated.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Homosexual Advocacy Group Not Legitimately #Catholic, Says Military Archbishop

(Warning: A bit of bad language is in this post.)

Someone anonymously placed my name on the email list of the homosexual advocacy group, "Catholics for Equality." The only reason I'm mentioning this is because of the news story I recently found, where the Archbishop of Military Services said that the group “cannot be legitimately recognized as Catholic.”

From the news story:

Last week leaders of the group joined a lobbying effort sponsored by Servicemembers United. They lobbied Congress and asked key senators and Catholic leaders to support changing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Catholics for Equality Board Member Patsy Trujillo, a former New Mexico state legislator, said the group was confident that senators would vote to change present policy.

“Further, we trust our Catholic Senators will vote in their conscience and the will of the pro-equality Catholics in their state, and not the misinformed dictates of Rome,” she said in a Catholics for Equality press release.

On Tuesday the U.S. Senate blocked the bill that would allow changes to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. While 60 votes were required to start debate, the final vote was 56 to 43.

While his latest statement did not reiterate the archdiocese’s position, in a June 1 statement Archbishop Broglio opposed the policy change. Saying moral beliefs should not be sacrificed for “merely political considerations,” he explained that Catholic chaplains can never “condone” homosexual behavior.

At the time he also voiced concern that a change in policy might negatively affect the role of the chaplain in the pulpit, the classroom, the barracks and the office.

CNA’s inquiry to the archbishop recounted CNA’s previous report on Catholics for Equality.

The organization was founded by groups such as New Ways Ministry and Dignity USA with cooperation from the homosexual advocacy group Human Rights Committee (HRC). It aims to “support, educate, and mobilize equality-supporting Catholics to advance LGBT equality at federal, state, and local levels.”

It also charges the Catholic hierarchy with favoring discrimination and having an “anti-equality voice” that does not represent Catholics.

In his Monday statement, Archbishop Broglio explained that according to canon law a group may call itself Catholic if it has been approved by a bishop or recognized by the Holy See in some manner.

“It is doubtful that the group in question has such approval. Therefore, it cannot be legitimately recognized as Catholic,” he commented.

“Translating the language of political systems to the Church simply demonstrates a lack of understanding of what the Church is,” Archbishop Broglio commented.

He also insisted that Church teaching is based in love and truth.

“It is not the desire of the Archdiocese for Military Services to offend anyone, but there is an obligation to teach the truth in love, even when that truth is displeasing to some or politically incorrect to others. The Holy Father made that quite clear in Caritas in Veritate.” (Bravo.)

Phil Attey, the present acting executive director of Catholics for Equality, is a former employee of HRC. Last year Attey created a website to “aggregate reports on every gay priest” in the Archdiocese of Washington to help them “stand up to the church hierarchy” on homosexual issues.

The Catholics for Equality website asks readers to report “anti-equality activity” in Catholic parishes, dioceses or community activities.

Those who are Catholic and experience a same-sex attraction know very well what the Catholic Church says about it. To use the name "Catholic" in their name implies sanction from the diocese bishop or Holy See, which it has not received, nor will ever receive.

Remember the two-pronged attack: approve homosexual unions and approve women ordained as priests. Both go hand-in-hand. As the relentless march toward secularism continues in our society, we will see those two camps get louder and more militant in their fight to change the Catholic Church according to their political whims.

If you're the one who placed me on the email list, please know this: The Catholic Church is not a political party. It can't be bent to your will. It can't be pressured to march alongside the world, because the world's system is anti-Christ and anti-life. It truly is "the culture of death" on so many levels; not the least of which is a promotion of a warped sexuality that is the result of a broken heart. A wounded heart is the root of so many wrong choices and this is one of them.

No matter how many "rights" activists win (and I'm talking broad activism, here, that advocates government force), there still is "one more battle" to be won before they can be happy. Except they're never happy. It's never enough. They go from battle to battle, growing more embittered and resentful as they think the whole world is against them and dammit, they're going to make the world love them!

It doesn't work that way. As far as I know, the gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered in the United States enjoy freedoms that are unknown in other parts of the world. Support the creeping influence of Muslims? (Who of course are claiming their "rights.") They kill homosexuals in their countries.

And really, what "rights" are left to claim? So what if you're in the military and you can't "tell" that you're gay. Why is that so important, anyway? You're in the military to fight for our country, not gallop around insisting that people recognize your sexuality. So do your job and fight the right battle, the one you're being paid to do. My brother was in the Army and as far as I knew, the Army owned him. He wasn't allowed to do many things. His "freedom" was curtailed so he could do the job he was trained to do.

That's what I say to gays in the military. Get over it. Do your job. It is a sacrifice that many in this country, including me, appreciate more than you'll know. I know it's a sacrifice to give up your choices, to go where you're sent and do jobs you'd rather not do. But you signed up for it. It was your choice. You knew the rules going in, so to me, it's rather unfair that you expect to change the rules now.

Do I want a bunch of whiners in the military? Hell, no! The military is supposed to be one mean fightin' machine. All this whining does is make me wish I was in the military so I could kick some ass and take names. I'm sure I'm not alone.

Now, dialing down on my gung-ho attitude, I'd like to reiterate something the Archbishop said. The Catholic Church's position on homosexuality is both Biblical and compassionate. Speaking the truth about sin is never easy when someone is enjoying their sin. Our "inner man" is a tough one. Insisting on its own way, being willful and deliberately thick-headed when it comes to hearing from God about something he'd rather not change. But if you are reading this and are gay, please ask yourself this: Why? Why is it a sin? Why does God condemn homosexuality? If you are honest with yourself and open to God's voice, you will hear the answer. There is healing for you if you struggle with this. I've known several gay men who turned toward God, surrendering everything, and were radically changed, even as far as getting married and having children. Some remained single and celibate, deciding to give God their sacrifice as worship. And they were filled with joy.

It can happen. But it won't happen if you have a group who purports itself to be "Catholic" encouraging you to ignore God and do whatever the hell you want. In fact, I know exactly who acts the same way and his home isn't in heaven, but in the fires of darkness that he desires to drag all of us into. Don't listen to his lies.