Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Speaking of the Vocation of Marriage and Loving Spouses... #Catholic

"kkollwitz," a frequent visitor here, shared with me his blog entry written about his wife. It is simply beautiful. Here is a portion. To read the entire thing, go here. (He is author of the blog, "Smaller Manhattans," a gem.) And because it's so poetic, I'm not going to say much else except that his description and obvious joy in loving his wife made me think: This is what God intended when He brought together a man and a woman for a covenant marriage.
What a marvel to know that for yet another day, the quotidian reality of my marriage exceeds any fantasy I could contrive. Pretty much every minute I've been able to spend with her in the last 22 years I've spent doing things with her, it never occurring to me that the time could be better used. As Sinatra sings, "these precious days, I spend with you..." Odd that all our foibles (mine, mostly) don't matter, and marriage shows me how glibly I spent my time a single person. And every few months or so, love grows, gets palpably bigger, deeper, wider, stronger. Maybe she really is bone of my bone, and that'll be apparent when, like St. Paul says, I can see clearly.

God comes through my wife to me. All the goodness in her, the divine energy in passes through, out into our children, out into the world. How incredible to be, with her, a single conduit of such powerful grace. And the kids, borne by her, opened my ears, turning God's faint whisper into a strong voice.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thoughts on My Vocation: Marriage #Catholic

This past Sunday, we had our Diocesan Director of Vocations give the homily. He focused on the vocation of priesthood, but also mentioned other vocations, including marriage. He said that whatever vocation we had, it included the salvation of souls.

This is where a Catholic understanding of vocation comes into play. When I was attending the non-denominational churches, it was taught that marriage was a blessing. I don't believe it was presented as "a calling" because everyone had the opportunity to be married, including leadership. I do remember that because I was single for so long, I was starting to think that was my calling. I believe my Catholic upbringing contributed to this view.

On Sunday, I had a revelation. I knew that by marrying, I was entering into a covenant relationship where I would love and serve my husband. But I never really saw it as a vocation, even though Catholicism defines marriage in that way. Suddenly, I saw it as a vocation just as Mother Teresa saw her life serving the poor in India as a vocation, just as a priest or nun views their life as a vocation. I suddenly realized that I was called to love and serve my husband as though he were Christ Himself. And by doing so, I would become a vessel of God's grace to my husband and instrumental in the salvation of his soul.

This may seem like an "of course!" moment for my Catholic friends. But on Sunday, I just sat there in the pew stunned and overwhelmed by this vocation. Each person has great value in the sight of God. So many times, it can be tempting to view the life of a religious and think, "Well, they're a shepherd over a huge flock (the parish or monastery) and that is so much more important than what I'm doing." But we are called to love and serve individuals. Even priests and nuns must deal with people individually, one at a time, and love them as they are called to do so by God.

I have always looked outward to "groups" when I've thought of vocations and service. Most of my life has been spent with groups and that is the prism I've used to view my obedience to God's call to love one another. But never have I really thought of it as loving an individual.

I truly adore my husband. I love him so much and feel so blessed to have him. However, we have differences of opinion like any other couple. There have been times when I have not treated him well; often losing my temper as I over-react or misinterpret something he said. (Believe me, fodder for the confessional...) But now I am seeing Christ in him. It is the same as when Mother Teresa was asked how she could love the unlovable in India's caste system. She responded that she saw in their faces the face of her Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ appears to us in many ways. We are called to love no matter what form He may take. For whatever reason, I never connected that to a spouse.

So my new perspective has led me to this: would I treat Christ this way? Would I speak to Christ in such a tone? Would I ignore Christ when He spoke to me? I realize that although my husband is not Catholic, I am to love and serve him as though he was the greatest saint who ever lived. (And living with me, he just may be.) The call to love in this manner is indeed overwhelming enough to send me to my knees in prayer. I admit I've prayed that my husband would be drawn to God and attend church. But those prayers have definitely outnumbered the amount of times I prayed that I would love and serve my husband as though he was Christ in my midst.

I don't know of any good Catholic books about the vocation of marriage, especially written for wives, but if there are, please let me know. I'll be searching of course on my own, but any recommendations will be greatly appreciated. This is going to be my vocation for the rest of my life, until either I pass on or my husband. I want to make sure I answer the call fully.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Newly Discovered Blog: Courageous Priest #Catholic

I found this blog, Courageous Priest, through a link on Pew Sitter. What a great blog! Looks like there are some great priest blogs on his blogroll!

Check it out. :-)

1937 Tridentine Mass, Narrated by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen #Catholic

I just discovered this and thought some of you may enjoy it. It's a nice explanation of what is happening during a Tridentine Mass. I love Archbishop Sheen's voice. Everything sounds like poetry when he says it...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"We Don't Want Cool As Much As We Want Real." #Catholic

The Wall Street Journal recently published an excellent piece, "The Perils of 'Wannabe Cool' Christianity."

The writer, Brett McCracken, said this:
If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it's easy or trendy or popular. It's because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It's because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It's not because we want more of the same.

I could not have said it better, myself.

Two years ago on this blog, (And yes, I can't believe it's been that long...) I wrote this post about my own personal dislike of churches trying to be "cool" to attract people. From my own Bible study time, I noticed that Jesus Christ wasn't trying to please people or cater to their whims in order to attract them to His message. He gave His message clearly, without apology. He talked about sin. He talked about compassion. He also talked about dying to the flesh and a person's own preferences for "their way;" which led to death, so they could embrace God's way, which would give life.

Young people like McCracken are not looking for entertainment. They can find that anywhere. They are looking for something that breaks through the walls of superficiality, something that will connect with their deep need of being known. Something that will not just define the problem of fallen man, but provide the solution. They are searching for answers and what many contemporary churches are giving them is nothing more than diversion.

Who is helping these young people think? Who is challenging them to go deeper than their usual dalliances with faddish belief systems that aren't anything more than "Adventures in Me-Land?" How many seeds are falling to shallow ground, never growing roots?

I remember when I was younger and visiting different churches. The ones that made an impression on me were the ones that challenged me to go beyond my comfortable way of thinking. When it was difficult to grasp a Biblical concept, I knew I was in the midst of growing. Change does not happen easily, but drags us while we often dig in our heels. I think most young people realize this.

If there are any younger folks reading this blog (under age 30), I'd really like to hear what you think.

For Fun: Skateboarding Priest #Catholic

A Hungarian priest uses a skateboard to make a point. I just wish I understood Hungarian! Obviously the kids are delighted by his moves. I know I laughed!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

He Who Is Content, Cannot Be Controlled #tcot #sgp #Catholic

I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me; you were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in him who strengthens me. - Phillippians 4:10-13 (RSV)

My husband and I were discussing the political climate, and I brought up St. Paul, who learned to be content in every situation. What precipitated the discussion was how politicians often provoke anxiety and dissatisfaction in order to be seen as as the hero by promising satisfaction to their constituents. It can be anything, from providing equal opportunity to a redistribution of wealth. But in order for the promises to be made, there first must be discontentment. Dissatisfaction is the fuel of revolutions.

I pondered how this related to our lives as Christians and again, it dawned on me why Christianity is hated by the powerful, the kings and potentates of the world. It is because the believers do not look to government for satisfaction and contentment. Our contentment is received from somewhere beyond this world. Its source is from a benevolent God, who gives good gifts to His children.
Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. - St. James 1:7 (RSV)

He who is content, cannot be controlled.

When we trust God implicitly and completely, we have severed all ties to the world who seeks to keep us in bondage. The world is full of sin, and sin desires to keep us deluded, defeated, and in despair. As C.S. Lewis' character "Uncle Screwtape" said in The Screwtape Letters, (the famous fictional book of a senior demon instructing his nephew on how to attack humans and keep them from God) on despair:
This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy's motives for creating a dangerous world—a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky. It is therefore possible to lose as much as we gain by making your man a coward; he may learn too much about himself! There is, of course, always the chance, not of chloroforming the shame, but of aggravating it and producing Despair. This would be a great triumph. It would show that he had believed in, and accepted, the Enemy's forgiveness of his other sins only because he himself did not fully feel their sinfulness—that in respect of the one vice which he really understands in its full depth of dishonour he cannot seek, nor credit, the Mercy. But I fear you have already let him get too far in the Enemy's school, and he knows that Despair is a greater sin than any of the sins which provoke it. - p. 12

Despair can lead us to God, but once we're there, we cannot stay in despair. In understanding the mercy of God, we realize that the understanding is to move us from despair, to overwhelming humility and gratitude. God has given us the gift that no man can give. It is a gift that has not been earned, but given in great love to us because God is a merciful and loving God.

The world, with its corrupt governments, has always sought to be seen as the answer for despair but falls woefully short. Instead it enslaves. It promises a release from despair that never seems to materialize. Truth, who is Jesus Christ, has come to set the captive free. He has broken the bonds of enslavement in all its forms so that we, the astounded recipients of such a mysterious love, can rise above and rejoice that He has brought true freedom to our lives.

I know that I myself cannot comprehend the depth of sin, nor the height of God's holiness. I cannot comprehend the bridge that Jesus Christ has provided that allows us to turn from sin and darkness so we can walk into the light. But I can see that when a person refuses to follow the game plan of the world; which seeks to cause mankind to despair, to be dissatisfied, and therefore to become dependent upon government -- they are free. It is this freedom the world hates because once a person is content in Christ, they cannot be controlled.

The mission of the world is to seduce men and women with power, to push them to control others, to demand power and take it by violence. There is the manufactured war of "injustice" that pushes them into thinking they are doing the right thing. Instead, they are being played by the most ancient Player in our world's history. The devil and his demons seek to control, to corral God's creatures into a place where they will be subjugated and dominated by evil.

But God's truth will win out, as His Truth has already won the ultimate battle between life and death. This is the Truth I seek to know and the Truth I hope others will see and embrace. I believe the Church's contentment will lead the way. May we be His Body who walks with assurance and grace, who trusts completely that Christ, the Head, does know where He's going. Because in that trust, is contentment.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

There Is No Such Thing As Politics: It's All About Religion

My husband and I have been watching various programs that offer commentary on today's political climate. I listen to "talk radio" often. Since 1995, I've read many political commentary books, websites, and blogs. After all of my pondering, I have become more resolute than ever in my conclusion.

It was never about politics. It has been and always will be about religion.

When I was younger, I heard the old adage, "Never talk about politics or religion with people at work or at a social gathering with those who are strangers." I remembered thinking, "How boring! What is more exciting than discovering how a person believes a civilized society should govern themselves; and how he orders his world by his beliefs in a higher power?" Obviously I have little use for small talk although I understand its necessity, especially in social situations.

However, I tried my best to follow the unspoken rule although I couldn't help offering an opinion every once in awhile on one or the other. One of the reasons I love my family so much is because we discuss these topics often.

Lately, though, I've been noticing a seismic shift in culture. I believe it has shocked people because for many years, we were living in a country where the Judeo-Christian values were reflected in our culture. At one time, our entertainment was sensitive to these values. Not anymore.

And it used to be acceptable to disagree with someone without wanting to rip their face off. But today, we're seeing the Biblical equivalent of a "gnashing of teeth." Disagreement is no longer acceptable. Total submission to the leftist political ideology is demanded. If one questions it, or worse, defies it -- then there is literally hell to pay. They will try to destroy you.

Which brings me to my point: I used to separate the two - politics and religion. But now I believe that it has always been about religion and in particular, about the God of the Old and New Testament. Look around the world. Is there such an uproar about Buddhists or Taoists? Do Hindus get smacked around in the press or mocked in late night TV? And Muslims? Everyone cowers in fear because no one wants to get their head chopped off, so we tiptoe around them. But both Judaism and Christianity are targets for destruction because...

Because why?

Because both of these religions have tenets of faith that will not bend to the world. These beliefs affect a person's life. It affects how they vote, where they live, how they conduct themselves. Those who are believers are not beholden to any government, they are beholden to God. Submission is made in loving trust and obedience to God, not hammered out by an overbearing political system. It is not about control, but love. And love gives. It does not take.

Evil is showing its face more frequently, now, and not just in the darkness but the light. We are witnessing more crime being committed in broad daylight. Just the other day, a man sprayed a woman with his, body fluid in a supermarket. A supermarket! She turned her back and bam! She was assaulted by some man who had no boundaries whatsoever. We are seeing these kinds of stories in the news with greater frequency.

Think of what being raised in a family that values religion does to a person, to a society. Think of how such precepts, which were consistently practiced in our country for centuries, resulted in a society that knew how to behave, how to treat one another. Now look at our country without religion and tell me what you see. Rampant crime, promiscuity, abortion, perversity, abuse, addiction, violence, laziness, disrespect, and cruelty, to name a few. And politics claim to fix them but has never delivered.

No changes within the political system will remove these things. Only when a person gets right with God will things change. Except we're now living in a society that is circling around believers, wanting to strangle the truth out of them. Which is us, if you're a believer in God and refuse to bow to the god of self.

Evil has always existed but before it was relegated to the seamier parts of town. Now our whole country is becoming seamy, corrupt, and cheap. We must pray, of course, for our world. But we also need to ask God to give us strength and grace to stand strong and not give in. The politicians are used to buying off their critics. But with a believer in God, it doesn't work that way, especially if you're a Christian.

Because we've been bought already at a price the world would never be able to match, let alone surpass. The One who we belong to loves us, and will bring us through this journey to finally arrive at the home we were created to inhabit -- everlasting life with Him.
"My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust." - Psalm 91:2 (RSV)

Monday, August 2, 2010

"I Was a Party Girl, I Got Pregnant." #Catholic

This is a beautiful and bittersweet video of a young woman who admits she made some mistakes. Praise God that she chose life. If you have a young daughter or son, you may want to pass this to them. (mantilla nod to Carolina at The Crescat)