Friday, March 26, 2010

Jason Mattera, The Young Face of a Patriot #tcot #sgp #teaparty

Most of my ministry has been with encouraging young people, especially young women. When I was an academic/pastoral advisor for a ministry school, the students were mostly "twentysomethings." I thoroughly enjoyed encouraging them and challenging some of their viewpoints - but always found them refreshing. It's difficult to resist the energy of youth. When they are focused, they can be passionate and compelling. Some of the boldest evangelistic campaigns have often been started by the youth.

I was almost shocked to see someone like Jason Mattera. An earnest, good-looking young man, filled with vigor and drive, he seemed a perfect candidate to fall into Obama's army of youth who were enamored of the presidential candidate and played a key role in getting Barack Obama elected as the President of the United States. However, Jason Mattera is proving to be the White House's worst nightmare.

Mattera is the author of a new book, Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation. I admit I haven't read the book but will. I am greatly encouraged that a young man like Mattera is willing to go head-to-head with these ignorant liberal politicians who support something like the monstrous healthcare bill without knowing what was in it. For a hilarious demonstration, watch this clip from Sean Hannity's show last night featuring Mattera as a guest:

Is that wild, or what?! I love how Al Franken tells him to "shut up and listen." Of course it isn't shocking when you think of these corrupt politicians trying desperately to scuttle under a rock like a cockroach when the light is shined directly on them. They love to get in front of a camera to tell us how they're "helping" us. But the moment someone starts to ask them the tough questions, they get defensive and ugly. Thank God for someone like Jason Mattera who intends on holding their feet to the fire.

I am greatly encouraged by Jason because I saw what was happening with the youth. They are notoriously impressionable and when surrounded by leftist professors and a liberal media that is nothing more than a propaganda machine - it is no wonder they swept Obama into office. The youth today have not been taught critical thinking skills. If they had, they would have been asking some hard questions during the presidential campaign. As it was, much emphasis was placed on emotion and this is the result. Jason Mattera is the only young person I know (other than my fiery 25-year old cousin) who has exposed the liberal agenda and voiced outrage.

I predict that Jason Mattera will get his own talk show one day. He has all the makings for being a phenomenal host: he is very sharp, well-spoken, and passionate. He drives home his points with a delightful, "brother," which just adds to his youthful charm. He is one to watch.

Support this young man any way you can. If you're on Twitter, follow him @JasonMattera. Then "tweet" the heck out of him. Also check out his blog and sign up for his updates. He is definitely one who deserves the support of conservatives. God bless you, Jason. We need about 100,000 like you.

P.S. If you use the Amazon link on the right, know that I just became an Amazon Affiliate because of this book.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Jesus Christ: The Ultimate Revolutionary #tcot #Catholic #sgp

One of the things I love about Jesus Christ is how He exposed the enemy's strategy - that lies and hatred imprison but truth sets the captive free.

Socialists who try to co-opt Jesus Christ's message have it all wrong. Jesus Christ wasn't coming to "force" the government to treat men and women fairly. He came to break the chains of the devil, to free mankind from the bondage of sin so that all may have a relationship with God. Only with Jesus Christ is there true freedom, which is why the enemy has controlled evil dictators from day one and steered them toward one ultimate goal: the total and complete destruction of the Christian faith.

Socialists, Marxists, Communists, Progressives, Liberals - the whole lot of them, are so ignorant of history that it is almost embarrassing. Actually, it's shameful. But then again, those who subscribe to such political ideology aren't exactly friends of Christianity, either.

I propose a change in perspective, a realization, and perhaps a heavy acceptance, of what exactly we're dealing with as we watch the world crumble around us. This is an ancient battle and one that has not touched the United States of America until now. It's easy to focus on the political ramifications of the healthcare "reform" bill because it's obvious. It's close to the surface and an easy mark. Americans know it is wrong for the government to dictate whether they have health insurance or not. Americans did not want this bill but it was forced upon them. All of the protests, the rallies, the letters, the phone calls, the heated "town hall" debates - all of it didn't matter to the politicians who claim that this is a solution. Even though 59% of Americans made it very clear they did not want this healthcare reform bill, the politicians not only turned a deaf ear to them, they patted themselves on the back as they made backroom deals to ensure it went through.

Again, liberals don't know history.

All we need to do is take a good look at Cuba. Michael Moore, the permanently-deluded darling of the leftists, created a film, "Sicko" that glorified the socialist Cuban healthcare system. What many people do not realize is that there are three different tiers of healthcare in Cuba. One for foreigners (who pay cold, hard cash for the privilege), the Cuban elite, and then the average Cuban. From the National Review, The Myth of Cuban Healthcare:

To be sure, there is excellent health care on Cuba — just not for ordinary Cubans. Dr. Jaime Suchlicki of the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies explains that there is not just one system, or even two: There are three. The first is for foreigners who come to Cuba specifically for medical care. This is known as “medical tourism.” The tourists pay in hard currency, which provides oxygen to the regime. And the facilities in which they are treated are First World: clean, well supplied, state-of-the-art.

The foreigners-only facilities do a big business in what you might call vanity treatments: Botox, liposuction, and breast implants. Remember, too, that there are many separate, or segregated, facilities on Cuba. People speak of “tourism apartheid.” For example, there are separate hotels, separate beaches, separate restaurants — separate everything. As you can well imagine, this causes widespread resentment in the general population.

The second health-care system is for Cuban elites — the Party, the military, official artists and writers, and so on. In the Soviet Union, these people were called the “nomenklatura.” And their system, like the one for medical tourists, is top-notch.

Then there is the real Cuban system, the one that ordinary people must use — and it is wretched. Testimony and documentation on the subject are vast. Hospitals and clinics are crumbling. Conditions are so unsanitary, patients may be better off at home, whatever home is. If they do have to go to the hospital, they must bring their own bedsheets, soap, towels, food, light bulbs — even toilet paper. And basic medications are scarce. In Sicko, even sophisticated medications are plentiful and cheap. In the real Cuba, finding an aspirin can be a chore. And an antibiotic will fetch a fortune on the black market.

A nurse spoke to Isabel Vincent of Canada’s National Post. “We have nothing,” said the nurse. “I haven’t seen aspirin in a Cuban store here for more than a year. If you have any pills in your purse, I’ll take them. Even if they have passed their expiry date.”

The equipment that doctors have to work with is either antiquated or nonexistent. Doctors have been known to reuse latex gloves — there is no choice. When they travel to the island, on errands of mercy, American doctors make sure to take as much equipment and as many supplies as they can carry. One told the Associated Press, “The [Cuban] doctors are pretty well trained, but they have nothing to work with. It’s like operating with knives and spoons.”

And doctors are not necessarily privileged citizens in Cuba. A doctor in exile told the Miami Herald that, in 2003, he earned what most doctors did: 575 pesos a month, or about 25 dollars. He had to sell pork out of his home to get by. And the chief of medical services for the whole of the Cuban military had to rent out his car as a taxi on weekends. “Everyone tries to survive,” he explained. (Of course, you can call a Cuban with a car privileged, whatever he does with it.)

So deplorable is the state of health care in Cuba that old-fashioned diseases are back with a vengeance. These include tuberculosis, leprosy, and typhoid fever. And dengue, another fever, is a particular menace. Indeed, an exiled doctor named Dessy Mendoza Rivero — a former political prisoner and a spectacularly brave man — wrote a book called ¡Dengue! La Epidemia Secreta de Fidel Castro.

Che Guevera's daughter praised the socialist U.K. healthcare system, but from what I've read, the conditions are deplorable. Recently a young 22-year old man died from thirst in a U.K. hospital because he couldn't get water from the 'lazy nurses.' It is beyond appalling. It is horrifying to think that a developed country would descend to this point of inhumanity. It's not the first case I've read of socialism's failure to provide healthcare to those in need. There are other stories and it's heartbreaking to read them. And I loved the last line of that story about the 22-year old man: This week a task force called on nurses to sign a public pledge that they will treat everyone with compassion and dignity. Are you kidding me? It takes a public pledge signing to remind nurses of what their responsibilities were from day one of nursing? Truly unbelievable.

Such a pledge hasn't been necessary for U.S. healthcare - but may be on our horizon.

Back to freedom and truth. Last night, Ann Coulter was prevented from giving a talk at a university in Ottawa, Canada by a group of ignorant students, wielding sticks and stones. (They elevated the childish chant to reality and yes, they could have broken bones.) What is so amazing is how those who think of themselves as defenders of whatever is good and right - are so deluded as to think that stifling free speech is a good thing. Such people can't even see the irony in their position. They are blind. How is it that a student can claim that one person's freedom to their own opinion is "wrong" if it doesn't line up with what they believe - is a good thing for intellectual discourse? Why not try to prove the other person wrong with spirited debate? Instead, leftists would rather muzzle those they disagree with instead of debating the merits of the issue. Could it be that they are incapable of the job?

Freedom is the only clothing Truth can wear. And Freedom cannot exist without Truth. The two are inextricably joined and cannot flourish without the other. Only when truth has the freedom to exist will societies receive truth's reward. Which is enlightenment, advancement, prosperity, development, innovation, and creativity just to name a few. In other words: light. Look at history. Whenever truth has been oppressed, there has been darkness - society in bondage. No growth. No real creativity. No prosperity. It has always, always led to enslavement and ultimately death.

Those who hate truth, hate freedom. Those who hate freedom, will... (wait for it) hate Christianity. Because of Jesus Christ's words: The truth will set you free. And Who is Truth?

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)

It is amusing to me that liberals in the Catholic Church say, "But that is your truth," when faced with such bothersome issues as sin and Christianity's "narrow" views. They are quick to point out that "truth" in their estimation, is subjective. However - when someone expresses an opinion that collides with their worldview (in essence, that person's truth), it's abominable to them, outrageous - and must be silenced at all costs. It is hilarious, actually, when you try to point that out to them. Sadly, a sense of humor is one of the first casualties when transforming into a liberal robot.

I recently volunteered for a local politician's campaign. Although I sense darker times for our country, I cannot help but fight it. I will continue to freely express my opinion on this blog as long as I can and thank God that for today, I do live in a free country. But in order to continue to live freely, I must fight for truth. As Orwell said, "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."

And that is why Jesus Christ was the ultimate revolutionary. He dared to tell the truth to His disciples, to Pontias Pilate, and to the world.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Questions? Comments?

I have been working on several projects over the past few months. One was a complete overhaul of my digital scrapbooking site. I installed WordPress and then purchased a very good and highly competent theme. This will help me update that site a little more often.

Now I'm testing screencasting programs so I can ramp up that site with some tutorials. More projects are in the pipeline for ScrapShot Magazine & Designs, but for now, creating a screencast is enough to keep me busy.

My cousin is getting married in May and I'm creating a guestbook for her, featuring her engagement photos. I'm almost done!

And of course I'm still in the process of writing a book about my return to the Catholic Church. (Whew!) I decided I will self-publish when that's finally done. I attended an online Catholic Writers Conference that was spectacular, and I did pitch my book idea to one publisher. However, it's tough for a publisher to sell a story like mine unless I'm wildly famous - which I'm not. The editor encouraged me to self-publish and give the book to family and friends. (Meanwhile, he did encourage someone who has visited this blog to "go for it" with her book idea. I'm very excited for her!)

Well, I will definitely do that. But I have a larger vision for the book than "family and friends." I would really like my book to find its way to parents who have adult children who no longer attend the Catholic Church. I want to give them hope. And then I would like the book to find its way to those who are ex-Catholics that attend non-denominational churches and ask them to consider a few things. That's it. Just consider. I would much rather see someone attend church somewhere than not at all. But I will say that there is a distinction with Catholicism that in hindsight, I didn't notice right away. Now that I've returned, I have a much different perspective on Catholicism. So when it's time for this tome of mine to find its way into the world, you'll be the first to know. :-)

I so appreciate you reading this blog. I have discovered even more wonderful things about our Catholic faith as a result of your comments. And for those who aren't Catholic, but just stopped in to say "hi" and share the joy of our faith in Christ - thank you. You have shown me that there are still many Christians who don't look at Catholics as "whores of Babylon" and can find the common ground with grace and compassion.

I thought it may be fun to ask if you had any questions for me or questions in general regarding Catholicism and non-denominational issues. I lifted the moderation for recent posts. (It seems the spammers like to pull out older posts and then try to add links to their sites in the comments.) So, ask away. And if you read someone's question, please feel free to add your own comments to theirs. I love discussion and really enjoy seeing visitors engage with one another, too.

That's it for this sunny Saturday! See you in the combox!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

We Need More Musical Genius! Featuring a Dapper Leonard Bernstein and Stefani Germanotta Before Turning Into Lada Gaga

This was just fabulous! Lest you think all I'm about is ranting about liberalism in the Church, here is a real treat. A YouTube video showing a young and dashing Leonard Bernstein reviewing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and his rejected notes. I love this sort of stuff. (Video below.)

I'm not a musician but love music. My husband plays guitar and I grew up in a household filled with music. (My father was a bass player and my brother followed in his footsteps.) I tried piano lessons but had a old, bumbling man who had halitosis and kept nodding off during my lessons. A budding musical prodigy, I was not.

But thankfully, I have ears. And I can follow the energy of the music, understand it to an extent, and appreciate it when it is shaped by talented hands. It is why I am disappointed when I see older adults flock to such mindless schlock such as pop ditties that have all the substance of cheese doodle. Here is a hilarious rendition of one of those pop songs by the delightful "Cavey" of the blog, "Lair of the Catholic Cavemen."

The Lost Art of Writing Poetry (ha!)

And if you were wondering about his thanks to Steve Allen, here is the original:

Music of excellence, of style and skill - makes you think. It makes you feel and lifts you above the norm. It isn't catering to the lowest denominator of human existence, which in my mind is an "entertain me" rather than a "challenge me." Challenging music (and really, this goes for any pursuit) will help you grow. And challenging music is entertaining. Sort of like having a delicious Orange Roughy fillet and knowing it's good for your body. Do you know the image I get when I hear some bland pop song that is running on three chords? The mobile that is hanging above a baby's crib. It's shiny, and pretty to look at but it just hangs there, moving around the air with no purpose. Of course it's a good thing to capture a baby's eyes and make her giggle. But that's about it. Thankfully babies grow and start to appreciate higher forms of entertainment such as crayons and a piece of paper. (One of my favorites!)

I have a collection of videos this morning to share. First are the ones by Bernstein. (mantilla nod to Joseph Susanka of Inside Catholic and his great post, "Bernstein Breaks Down Beethoven.")

For those who have a little more time, take a listen to one of my favorite TED talks. Benjamin Zander talking about music and passion, reminding us why we all really do love Classical music.

Finally, did you realize that the famous Lady Gaga really does have an amazing voice? Watch the video below. It struck me that she made a very conscience choice to switch from becoming a phenomenal pianist/singer to the pop star all the young kids love today. When I listened to her playing the piano (which held a few clunkers but still was pretty good), I was reminded of Diane Krall. Krall is of course, a very talented jazz pianist, but honed her voice together with her musicianship to create a dynamite performance. (Interesting that she wanted to "hide" her voice when she was trying to snag piano gigs early in her career. She wanted to play much more than sing.)

So here is Stefani Germanotta, before she became "Lady Gaga," with all the passion and energy of a hopeful young star.

Now that, was music to my ears.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Are Catholics Not Allowed to Be #Catholic? #tcot #sgp

I turned on the comment moderation because this post may upset some and quite frankly, I'm done with nasty combox rants. I'm all for spirited debate but viciousness? No.

You may have heard about the lesbian couple in Colorado who tried to enroll a child in their care into a Catholic school, knowing the Archdiocese had a policy not to accept children from same-sex couples. The Archbishop of Denver, Archbishop Chaput, made it clear that the school could not receive a child from a couple that were knowingly out of unity with the Catholic faith. His response (emphasis mine):
“In many ways times have changed, but the mission of Catholic schools has not,” the prelate stated. “The main purpose of Catholic schools is religious; in other words, to form students in Catholic faith, Catholic morality and Catholic social values.”

Archbishop Chaput also stressed that the “Church does not claim that people with a homosexual orientation are 'bad,' or that their children are less loved by God. Quite the opposite. But what the Church does teach is that sexual intimacy by anyone outside marriage is wrong; that marriage is a sacramental covenant; and that marriage can only occur between a man and a woman.”

“These beliefs are central to a Catholic understanding of human nature, family and happiness, and the organization of society,” he said. “The Church cannot change these teachings because, in the faith of Catholics, they are the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

In light of this, the “policies of our Catholic school system exist to protect all parties involved, including the children of homosexual couples and the couples themselves,” said the prelate.

“Our schools are meant to be 'partners in faith' with parents. If parents don’t respect the beliefs of the Church, or live in a manner that openly rejects those beliefs, then partnering with those parents becomes very difficult, if not impossible.”

As you can imagine, this didn't sit too well with the "diversity" crowd. But I am touched by the eloquence of Archbishop Chaput and the brave stand of Fr. Breslin, who made the decision not to admit the child to the school. It isn't easy to stand for the faith when so many acquiesce to the culture, in spite of a religious conflict.

Here is what puzzles me. If you join a club, there are rules. Because you want to belong, you adhere to the rules. But there must have been something about that club that compelled you to join. When people join a church, they are compelled by its tenets of the faith, their commitment toward service, or the many things a church does (At least I hope so.). One does not make such a decision with their eyes closed.

So who doesn't realize that the Catholic Church does not acknowledge same-sex marriage, and in fact opposes it? Who doesn't know that Catholicism teaches that those who have homosexual tendencies are called to lead a celibate life and to carefully handle relationships with those of the same sex? Unless a person is living under a rock, the answer would be, no one.

There are plenty of churches and schools who would accept a gay couple. Why isn't this lesbian couple attending a Methodist church and sending their child to that school? I truly cannot fathom the motivation someone has to make choices that will deliberately be confrontative and cause difficulties. What must that be like, getting up every day and intentionally planning to force a religious institution to bend to your will because they believe something you don't?

Here's the deal, activists. You have a choice. There are plenty of other alternatives to the Catholic Church. Purposefully causing problems and throwing tantrums when you don't get your way doesn't strike me as very "Christian-like," either. If you can't respect the Catholic Church's beliefs, then perhaps you don't belong there. Because following Christ isn't about following what is popular. It's about laying down your life for Him.

I'll close with a quote from Charles Danahur's article, "Tolerance Goes Both Ways, Denver":
Some people will not be satisfied until the church is either run out of business, is silenced or abandons all principle. We may never all agree but hopefully we can be tolerant of the church's position and respect their dedication to the faith.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Benedict XVI: It is necessary to return to confession #Catholic

It is necessary to return to the confessional, noted Benedict XVI, speaking to the participants in the Apostolic Penitentiary's course of formation. The hedonistic and materialistic cultural context is causing a loss of the sense of sin and of the sense of good and evil. Priests, with the example of the holy Cure d'Ars, must guide the faithful courageously, be dedicated to hearing confessions, and establish a dialogue of salvation with the penitents. The certainty of being loved by God which the priest should transfer to the faithful, the Pope said, helps men to recognize their own sin and to be introduced gradually into the stable dynamics of conversion of heart, which leads to the radical renunciation of evil and to a life according to God. For his part, the priest is able to perform this task if he lives an authentic life of prayer, nourished by the Gospel and by closeness to God.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Catholicism, Social Justice, and the Health Care Debate #tcot #sgp #Catholic

When I returned to the Catholic Church, I was aware of its allegiance to promoting "social justice." I've had a few readers comment about my position, wondering if perhaps I was being too hard with my criticism. The recent health care issue in the U.S. has brought it to the surface again as many priests and their bishops push for health care reform under the guise of "social justice."

I understand that Catholicism has long been an advocate for the disadvantaged in our society. Part of the reason I returned has been my lifelong admiration of its pro-life stance. No other church has been as committed to life issues as the Catholic Church. I also have been proud of Catholicism's history as the creators of the first hospitals and schools. Throughout the world, you will find Catholics who are dedicated toward educating and caring for orphans, and also caring for the poor.

However, I see a vast difference between showing compassion to those who are in need versus becoming "activists" for their situations. Jesus said we will always have the poor with us. He spoke often about how we were called to love and show them mercy. He did not say we were obligated to storm the gates of the Roman government demanding justice for them.

I read an interesting article on Inside Catholic about a Catholic's response to the health care reform debate. The man wrote a letter to his priest, emphasizing his dissatisfaction with the promotion of a certain viewpoint. Unfortunately, it would seem the priest did not appreciate an honest opinion and instead took the opportunity to belittle and condemn the man.

From the article:

Unfortunately, there are clergy who not only contribute to the misunderstanding but also treat respectful disagreement with condescension. The following e-mail was passed along to me by an acquaintance who wrote to his parish priest to question the wisdom of placing the nation's health-care system in the hands of the federal government. (I've edited the e-mail to protect the identity of its author.) The priest's response:
It is so unfortunate that you have such a myopic vision and have made the conscious decision to NOT learn anything about Social Justice, that you would rather listen and believe the words of Hannity and Limbaugh rather than [local bishop's name] or any Roman Catholic authority on the teachings of the Catholic Church especially in the area of Social Justice and the Social gospel.

I was contacted by Bishop _____ and [another bishop's] Secretary. They both were disappointed in your mindset and your refusal to learn what the Catholic Church actually teaches. I pray that someday you will spend the time and effort to learn, understand and comprehend the Church's view on Health Care Reform, Immigration Reform, and the understanding that the Body of Christ isn't made up of only those people you believe to be given the recognition. With that being said, I do not want you to send me any E-Mails or forward any articles that are contrary to the teachings of the Church. I pray that God may have mercy on you (emphasis added).
The lack of pastoral courtesy requires little comment, except to say that this sort of demeaning clerical tone pushes the suppliant further away and exacerbates the discontent.

It is proof once again, of the divide between the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholics in the pew. Like the immigration reform issue (which the U.S.C.C.B. supports) the health care reform issue exposes another major disconnect between leadership and laity. I don't care how you slice it, the health care reform is not about health care. It's about control. It's a Trojan Horse the U.S.C.C.B. has gladly received, believing it to be a good deal for the needy. However, at what cost? Not only will there be a huge financial burden placed on the taxpayer, there will be an overall loss of freedom for our country.

If the government is in charge of healthcare, they will be able to dictate what businesses must do to insure their employees. More regulations will be on the way regarding what we can eat and drink. And anyone who doesn't believe healthcare will be rationed is living in a fantasy world. Nothing the government touches ever succeeds. In fact, whatever the government involves itself with only grows more bloated and inefficient. Their takeover of the automobile industry hasn't helped. We all know the incompetency of their schools. And now they want to take on healthcare.

Here is my ultimate beef with "social justice." It isn't anyone else's responsibility to gain justice for me but myself. No one is in charge of my life. I'm the CEO, the owner, the one who makes choices whether I do something or not. Thank God I had parents who taught me the importance of personal responsibility. Sadly, many in our society never learned that lesson and as a result, they are constantly looking for others to save them.

Those who promote "social justice" are only too happy to accommodate them. They rush in with a Messiah complex, eager to tell someone how to live their life. Meanwhile, the person who is in a difficult place rarely realize that they've given up their freedom in the process. I have no problem with helping anyone. But I do have a problem taking care of someone when they are able to take care of themselves. I have a problem with those who can work but refuse because it's easier to depend upon government subsidies. I have a problem with those who make a series of bad choices and then depend upon the government to bail them out.

I have a problem with a religious organization who tells me that being concerned about such things is wrong and claims I don't "understand."

Here's another thing: The U.S. government, on its present course, is in direct competition with the Catholic Church.

How? Because the government wants to take the place of the Church by providing "justice." I can't help but wonder where the U.S.C.C.B. thinks its going to land when all the dust settles. I don't think its too far-fetched to say that the government will be quickly eyeing church property and tax-exemption status to fill their coffers. If the U.S.C.C.B. thinks its going to get along famously with the government because they share the same concerns, I'd say think again. Marxism and Communism have little love for religion. As a matter of fact, they hate it. Religion brings truth and truth brings freedom. They won't have it. St. Maximillan Kolbe and other priests who died in the concentration camps are proof.

I don't mean to be disrespectful to our bishops. These are men who have served the Church and have taken vows to love her and prepare her children for the afterlife. But I strongly disagree with them on these issues. Like the writer said in the article quoted above, "There is no 'Church view' on health care reform but there is a position taken by the bishops conference." I'm saddened by how some bishops are turning a deaf ear to the people by dismissing them as clueless. I'm all for spirited debate. What I'm not for is a "sit down and shut up" directive.

Throughout history, the Catholic Church has made a tremendous difference in the lives of millions. It has contributed to the success of many communities and countries. I am proud of my heritage as a Catholic and continue to be as the Church shares itself with the world.

However, I find it disturbing that while many in our country have fought for a "separation of Church and State," those same people are silent when the Catholic Church joins forces with the government when it is in their interests. Why is it acceptable to criticize "the religious right" when they object to an obvious persecution of their faith (such as banning the religious connotation of Christmas) but yet religion involved with politics is fine - as long as the religion supports the current party line? When President George W. Bush was in office, Christians often heard about its unacceptable level of influence. But now that we have a different President, suddenly its okay?

Color me unimpressed and unconvinced. Mixing government with religion has never bode well for its citizens. I fear we're about to experience this truth even more if we remain on our current path.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Yes, Women Have the Power to Change the World, But Why Not Start at Home? #Catholic #tcot #sgp

This morning, I just read a distressing article from Mail Online, Three generations ... all of them single mothers: Growth of extended 'man-free' families who rely on state handouts. From the article:
"Single motherhood has stretched through the generations to produce extended families without men. Grandmothers, mothers and daughters now live without husbands or fathers and rely on the state for support, a study found yesterday. Three-generation single mother families where no one works and which contain no men are now common, according to the analysis by researcher Geoff Dench.

The spread of the extended single-parent family was tracked through the findings of the British Social Attitudes survey which has followed families and their opinions each year for almost 30 years. It showed that more than half of grandmothers who do not have a husband or male partner themselves are likely to have daughters who are also single mothers. The 53 per cent recorded in 2008 was up from 44 per cent over a decade."

What a terrible commentary on relationships between men and women.

All I can think about are the children. To grow up without a father is one of the worst things that can happen to a child. Yes, a mother can love her child completely and raise the child the best she can, and yes, there can be father figures in a child's life (at least I hope there are some). But ultimately, the role of the father simply can't be outsourced. God created men and women with different purposes and the importance of the man's role as father cannot be overemphasized.

I grew up with a father. As I grew older, I realized how blessed I was - not only to have my father in my life, but to have two parents still married to each other. Although their marriage wasn't perfect, they worked through their differences and at the end of the day, would focus on the vows they took to love, honor, and cherish until death parted them. Marriage is for adults and I'm beginning to wonder if our pursuit for youth has not only affected our expectations for church, but our expectations for wedded bliss.

The Catholic Church tries its best to prepare her children for marriage. A Catholic doesn't just waltz into a priest's office and say, "Hey, there. I found a great woman to marry. Let's set the date!" There are classes to attend, prayers and counseling that are done. Of course there is a reason for all of this. The Catholic Church is trying to prevent exactly what is happening in the U.K. and the U.S. - hundreds of single mothers, struggling to raise families.

We need a revolution. And I think women are up for the challenge. What happened 30 or 40 years ago? It was the 1960's, and the feminist movement was gearing up for its second wave. (The first being the Suffrage movement that gained women the right to vote.) But a woman named Betty Friedan changed everything. Her book, The Feminine Mystique, blamed society's narrow view of roles as the reason women were dissatisfied. Another feminist activist and author, Carol Hanisch, coined the term, "The Personal is Political" and encouraged women to see their life as politicized and reflecting sexist power structures.

Fast-forward to today: it's no surprise to see women reaping the ugly fruit of those choices. Women were prodded into thinking of men as their adversary. Men were the problem. Men were trying to prevent women from expanding their horizons, controlling their destinies, oppressing them at every turn. And when marriages fell apart, it must have been because the men just didn't get with the program. Few women really examined "the program."

I have been on that side of the issue - looking at men and thinking they had "a problem." When I was younger, I rarely looked at my own role in the equation. I always thought it was the man who was the insensitive jerk or the selfish oaf. Rarely did I think that maybe some of the problems had to do with my expectations.

It wasn't until I was in my mid-twenties that I started to see men in a new light. This happened after many hours of Bible study and prayer. I started to see a larger spiritual strategy of attack upon the family. I saw how the family is the glue that holds societies together and without strong families, a community will be weak. Weak communities are more vulnerable to the onslaught of evil. All one needs to do to find proof is look at the newspaper headlines. The majority of criminals did not have a father while growing up. More than 1.5 million children have fathers in prison. Lord, have mercy.

After time, I started to see the good in men. I started to realize they were not my enemy but instead, people who need love like anyone else. This may sound basic (and perhaps silly) to some of you but I honestly used to think that men were made of granite. Strong, impenetrable. Impervious to having hurt feelings or a sense of loss. Thankfully, God opened my eyes to see that was far from the truth. Men, just as women, can have their feelings hurt by careless words or insensitive acts. It's not just men who can be jerks. There are many women who have earned that title, too.

It was during my thirties when I discovered that most divorces were initiated by women. At least two-thirds of those who file for divorce are women. And although there are instances where the divorce is filed because the man is abusive or violent toward his wife, only 6% filed for that reason. (According to a study done in Virginia.) The majority of divorces occur because a woman believes she and her husband have "grown apart" or, to gain control of the children. In fact, according the article I cited, the person who expects to gain custody of the children is the one most likely to file for divorce. And that's usually the woman.

I propose something radical. Let's love men. In fact, I often would bring up this exercise when I coached single women over forty. Older women have an issue with trusting men since they have been disappointed time and time again. However, it is not an insurmountable challenge. One of the exercises I gave them was this: Write down at least five things you love about men. Not "a man," but men in general. I did this myself when I was single and it started to change my views regarding men.

For instance, one thing I love about men is their easy-going camaraderie when they gather with other men. I don't know why, but I really get a kick out of watching men laugh together, good-naturedly ribbing each other, and showing a genuine affection toward their friends. I admire the way they can have heated debates and then turn around and have a beer together. (Women rarely can do this.) I like how they can shrug off differences of opinions without getting into a snit about it.

Another thing I love about men is their desire to help. Whether it's helping a woman trying to carry too many bags or rushing into a burning building to save people, men help. It seems to be in their nature. And I love it.

I fear that women have been trained to criticize men far too often at the expense of praising them. And there are many reasons to praise men. But when a few loud, disenchanted harpies decide to write books and appear on talk-shows, some women buy into that disenchantment and start looking at their own husbands with a more critical eye.

We as women have the power to change this. We can first turn to God and pour out our hearts regarding this situation. We need to pray that God would change us and make us a channel of His love. We have to be willing to change. We also need to ask God to grant us courage to stand up to the current line of thought and say, "We love men. Stop attacking them." No talk show host will convince me that all men are no good. We need to lay down our swords if our children are to have any hope of being fathered.

One of the lessons God showed me was how important it is for women to find their own sense of self-worth apart from a marriage. His grace for a wife flows through her realization that no one can "make" her happy. Her happiness is a result of the peace that comes from her relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is this happiness that will bless all of her relationships, from her husband to her children. If it is one thing I have noticed about radical feminists, it is their complete lack of peace. The fruit of love is peace.

To embrace all of this is not easy. Sacrifices need to be made. But aren't our children worth it? And what is amazing is this: after the sacrifice is made, the glory is given. After Jesus Christ made the ultimate sacrifice, He was given a glory that far outweighed the agony. There is something magnificent on the other side of death, and I believe that women, when they really consider it, will rise to the challenge. When they do, watch out. The world will indeed be a better place for it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

What I Love About Catholicism: Grounded Love #Catholic

At the Traditional Latin Mass yesterday, the epistle was 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7. In it, a word caught my ear: passion. Since I've been focusing on maturity and history, I was again reminded of how Catholicism differs from other Christian communities.

I know it's politically-correct to focus on commonalities rather than differences. But part of my mission with this blog is to highlight the areas where Catholicism really gets it right. (And sometimes pointing out how other churches got it wrong.) From my many years spent in non-denominational churches, my varying concerns could now be summed up in this sentence: They weren't Catholic, but I was. No matter how far I tried to run from the Catholic Church, pesky issues such as a lack of a consistent Communion service or self-indulgent shenanigans would bother me. Now that I'm "back home," I can see much more clearly that my concerns were because I had been given a fuller truth and to have it either watered down or given to me in part was unsatisfactory.

"Passion" is the watchword of the day. Turn on the television and you'll easily find someone talking about "finding your passion." I'm all about finding what you love to do and doing it, however, the passion I'm talking about here has more to do with emotions. St. Paul spoke often about resisting the temptation to allow our passions to rule us. The word often used was the Greek word, epithymia - which means desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust.

Where I saw the train go off its tracks within the non-denominational church was the propensity toward high emotionalism and the assumption that it represented a mature faith. If someone "loved the Lord with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength," then it meant they were forceful, and even "reckless for the Lord." (I heard that motto often.) There was an encouragement to "run toward the Lord" with "full abandon." Many times, this included abandoning reason, which led to unfortunate situations such as people moving to a ministry in another state with absolutely no money or plan because "God told them to do it."

Catholics have astounded me because they truly have the best of both world. We have St. Theresa of Avila who pursued God with such power that she wrote one of the most intimate books, The Interior Castle. Then we have great Catholic intellectuals such as G.K. Chesterton who prove one can love God completely with his mind. The point is, there seems to be a balance within Catholicism, a grounded love that I have not seen elsewhere.

In our culture, it is almost expected to lose one's head if you fall in love. To be in love, to love fully and yes, passionately, often seems to mean a loss of restraint. But is that really love? Jesus Christ loved His disciples, His family, and the world with a deep and mysterious love. It was a love willing to sacrifice everything. But I don't sense that Jesus allowed His emotions to rule Him. During the rare moments we see Jesus allowing His emotions to be revealed (such as going after the money-changers in the Temple), we also see purpose.

Love is a beautiful, wonderful, and sometimes crazy thing. We all desire it but yet some of us want to avoid losing control. Catholicism requires Catholics to not rush headlong into anything but to think first. I really don't know too many Catholics who have been "carried away" by their emotions. But this doesn't make Catholics cold or unfeeling. Quite the opposite. There is a consideration of the world around them. And then there is response. I have seen grounded love in action from pro-life protests, Baptisms, and care and concern for other parishioners. I see the grounded love expressed when we say a Hail Mary for someone who just passed away, when someone is in need and the church responds - not with great fanfare, but with a quiet humility that understands that expressions of the heart do not need to be recognized in order mean something.

There is so much more swimming in my mind regarding this topic. I remember when I returned, I looked at the Catholic women and thought, there is just something about a Catholic woman. There is a peaceful dignity about them. There is confidence in their faith. They stand apart from other women who fall apart at the slightest trial in their life, claiming "the enemy is attacking me again."

Grounded love keeps us going in the right direction. Boy, do I need it.