Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Blessed Virgin Mary: The Beauty of Nothingness

As we approach the Solemnity of the Mother of God, I thought I would share a post I wrote earlier on the feast of the birth of Mary:

Today is the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Mary, whose immaculate conception was celebrated 9 months ago, was born on this September day.  And as is the way of the Lord, this monumental day, this wondrous birth went quietly by in time, and still goes quietly by in our lives, we could easily miss it. In fact, we often do miss it.  Yet, this feast day invites us to ponder the woman whose life modeled most fully how to allow the word of the Lord to be conceived in us and born through us, in our own words and deeds.  Insignificance and lowliness are not barriers to these wonders, they are requirements.

Which is good, because  I do not have much to offer. I am a Catholic who fails a lot in living my faith.  I am a wife who fails a lot at being a wife.  I am a mother, who fails a lot with her children (I have two crying, fighting and whining in my presence right now - thankfully they are only mildly annoying me, so I am ignoring them...).  And, in a culture that is pragmatic, cliquey and materialistic, I am a stay-at-home mother of 8 who writes for an insignificant blog because I perceived a call to do it from Him, no money in it, no huge following, no "career" to validate me - nothing.  I am nothing.  And oh, how I have caused myself and others around me much pain in fighting that truth for most of my life.

When I was in high school, it got back to me that an acquaintance of mine had described me as a "cipher"....a nobody.  In her world, I was a quiet and fairly shy girl, who was not friends with her friends and who did not leave a huge impression on her friends.  Since I was not terribly concerned with her opinion of me at that time, I was able to brush off the insult fairly easily...or so I thought.  Because every once in awhile the words would come back to me, whispering to me that I was a cipher, a nobody.  And I would fight that identity with much ferocity!  I would deny it, offer proofs against it, but mostly I would fear it.  The label became heavier and heavier.

 But,  one day I finally heard the words of Our Blessed Mother.  My spiritual ears were opened.

Luke 1:46-56:The Canticle of Mary."My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.  The Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his name.  His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.  He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.  He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.  The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.  He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his prose to our father to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

Was I to accept that identity that was so thoughtlessly assigned to me? Instantly my spirit rebelled: "I am not a cipher! I am not a nobody, do not let that nasty girl be right!" The arrogant and prideful aspirations of my heart, which fed upon my fear of nothingness, did not yield easily. Yet a wave of grace washed over my heart as I thought of the words: "He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones; but lifted up the lowly." My pride was dispersed, I was thrown down, and lifted up. In a moment I was confronted with all that I wanted to be, thought I should be and was failing at, and yet I was given an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Because I was nothing.  I was nothing so that I could be lifted up; there is no other way.

That thoughtless comment of so many years before was instantly transformed, and the weight of it lifted. The Lord needed to show me I am nothing so I can be filled with His love, His Spirit, His life.  So that he can lift me up, out of my mediocrity and into His heart, and I do not have to grasp at earthly honors, or rewards or recognition. Without Jesus I am nothing, without Him I will cling to false egos and false identities, and be let down by them, or even worse, I will be blindly self-satisfied! The heavy burden of that word "cipher" gave way to tearful gratitude and awe. In a world where wealth, popularity and honors are seen as indicators of goodness and worthiness Mary has shown me that it is only lowliness, nothingness, that can acquire the interior vision and wisdom to give Him our fiat, with complete trust in His compassionate love that will lift us up.

So Happy Birthday Mary, Queen of Heaven, who so gently taught me about lowliness. I still have to submit my fears and insecurities to God, I still have to have Him disperse pride and arrogance with His mighty arm.  But I do not fear the nothingness as I once did, and I have come to see a little how God's kingdom conquers and transforms this world of shallowness and ugliness.   I now look upon that dismissive, and shallow description of me so long ago through Mary's eyes, without the shame and fear that the world attaches to it.  In those words came the might of His arm and revealed the true and eternal beauty of His Mother.

Blessed Be God, and Blessed Be His Most Holy Mother!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I Will Wait For You, Lord!

The Adoration of the Shepherds

As we are progressing through Advent, I am doing my best not to be in full Christmas celebration yet.  It is a tough thing to accomplish in our consumer driven culture that actually thinks that Christmas is over once all the gifts are unwrapped.  For our part, we try to slow down our decorating, adding things each week so that our house is not in it's full Christmas splendor until we are very near to Christmas.

One of the most difficult things for me to resist is Christmas music.  I have an Advent playlist in iTunes, which has quite a few versions of Lo How A Rose Ere Blooming, The Angel Gabriel and Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, and admittedly I gradually add in Christmas tunes - because my Advent selection is pathetic compared to my Christmas collection.

I am always on the alert for new Advent selections, and I have found a surprising new one - albeit quite contemporary - that I am adding to my playlist!  It is Mumford and Son's I Will Wait (which I have a YouTube video of near the end of this post.).  Especially for this upcoming Gaudete Sunday, how can you not wait joyfully with banjos playing happily in the background?

Here are the lyrics:

And I came home
Like a stone
And I fell heavy into your arms
These days of darkness
Which we've known
Will blow away with this new sun

And I'll kneel down
Wait for now
And I'll kneel down
Know my ground

And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you

So break my step
And relent
You forgave and I won't forget
Know what we've seen
And him with less
Now in some way
Shake the excess

But I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you

So I'll be bold
As well as strong
And use my head alongside my heart
So tame my flesh
And fix my eyes
That tethered mind free from the lies

But I'll kneel down
Wait for now
I'll kneel down
Know my ground

Raise my hands
Paint my spirit gold
And bow my head
Keep my heart slow

Cause I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you

What the composer's true meaning of this song is I can only guess at, but for me it is the joyful expectation of the beloved Son, who came to forgive and save me!

Come. Lord Jesus Come!

Peace and Grace to all,

Oh okay, Here is the video again, just think of  candles and expectant waiting:

I am adding this video of my daughter Kelsey singing in a Madrigal Choir's performance of a much more traditional song:the Celtic Advent Carol, a song which I cannot find recorded anywhere!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Do Not Be So Open-minded That You Brains Fall Out:

Reflecting with Chesterton on a conversation with a friend.

" I am European and I am more comfortable with change"  was a good friends well-intentioned attempt to reassure me about the latest election.  It was a conversation I did not want to have, because I know that beneath our friendly exterior there are deep, deep differences about what makes life meaningful, about transcendence, and about what it means to be human.  Consequently, in this particular discussion, those differences came down to politics.  She was not comfortable with the passion of my resistance to her meaningless phrase.  In the end she learned that one of those changes this election has presented us with is the diminishing of our 1st Amendment Right to prevent the government from establishing laws to prevent the free expression of religion.  Her assertion that birth control is simply health care for women (ridiculous) is not an excuse to un-tether ourselves from our constitutional rights that protect us from tyrannical intrusions of the government into our lives, first and foremost our religion.   Her openness to hear me out is a credit to her, (which is why we are such good friends in spite of these deep differences).

“When men have come to the edge of a precipice, it is the lover of life who has the spirit to leap backwards, and only the pessimist who continues to believe in progress.”
― G.K. Chesterton

It was her claim to be more comfortable - open-minded - if you will, with change, that stirred up my ire.  Mind you, she was completely unaware of the constitutional problems of the HHS Mandate. And her comment was a subtly chastisement of those of us who are resistant to a particular change. It really is not entirely her fault that she was ignorant of some extremely important facts, there was little concern about the details of this mandate in the mainstream media,  yet I have to think that this open-minded acceptance of change is very foolish with out a population that is actively and aggressively seeking all the appropriate information. We are becoming sitting ducks for tyranny.

“Do not be so open-minded that your brains fall out.”
― G.K. Chesterton

Truly, how on earth are our rights secure with this kind of mind-set?  In fact, though I tried to pass it off as a harmless statement, anyway I turned it around in my mind it was an offensive statement.  Because, though I am innately conservative, I do not view progress or liberalism (in the classical sense) or change as necessarily bad, but neither do I view those things as necessarily good.  I think progress is only authentically good when it is rooted in immutable truth, grounded in objected morality. It is our job in a democracy to be well grounded in truth and virtue in order for us to be open-minded and discerning all in one.  And for the United States of America, any change that seeks to redefine a constitutional right is incredibly dangerous and stupid. Blithely and un-reflectively accepting this change, in ignorance or because of a deep pessimism about humanity is to walk off the proverbial cliff.

Most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities.” 
― G.K. Chesterton

Indeed her statement was filled with pessimism. A pessimism tied to fear of man's failures to be responsible for our neighbor, for our own community ect., and the intense desire to rid ourselves of the ideals, and virtues that reveal our failures.  And any religion that will not let go of immutable truths (because they are IMMUTABLE) becomes something to fear, and silence.

And the solution to freeing yourself from responsibilities, to your neighbor, to your country, to your God, is to to hand over that responsibility to someone else.  We are doing that by our "open-minded' readiness to diminish truth, redefine morality and replace it with a million little regulations and techniques that protect you from ever having to take responsible for your neighbor's misery or folly.    If the little laws and regulations do not prevent it, there will be an agency to provide the technique or pill to fix it.  In this instance,   Contraception and abortion replaces chastity.  If (as in the discussion my friend and I were having) a constitutional right to free expression of religion gets in the way of universally eliminating the necessity of having to deal with unplanned children, redefine that constitutional right, make the right malleable.  This is reasonable in the un-reflective mind, because even in the most chaste worlds, there will still be failures, isn't life better when you don't have to worry about that?

“Don't ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up.”
― G.K. Chesterton

But remember, if whoever is in power can redefine a right, than you don't have any.  They are merely privileges granted to you by the powers-that-be, and you better hope they remain friendly to you, and you never are an inconvenience to them.

There is a tradition that jumping off a precipice is prejudicial to the health; and therefore nobody does it. Then appears a progressive prophet and reformer, who points out that we really know nothing about it, because nobody does it. And the tradition is thereby mocked - to the peril of us all.”
G.K. Chesterton

In the end, my dear friend had not even realized what was at stake (again, thank you mainstream media), and even though I did my best to inform her of the serious objection I and those who value religious freedom have against the implementation of the HHS mandate, It does not even touch on the deeper problem for her, and for our western society as a whole:  The lack of  minds, hearts and principles that are tethered to unchanging truths and to God given rights.  This produces an ignorant, gullible population with shallow values and lazy charity.  They surely do not consider themselves gullible, because they consider themselves principled and open minded and not afraid of change (you know, progressive)! When you endeavor to change founding principles you had darn well better consider whether or not you are undermining you own refuge in times of trouble.  Whether or not you are freely giving away your own God-given rights.  And then you had better seriously reflect upon the ambitions of leaders who pursue such agendas.  In the end these types of changes will be a form of suicide, and it will not be merciful or painless.

Also, I really like this Mumford and Son's song.
Consider the following lyrics:

I'll be bold as well as strong.
and use my head alongside my heart,
so tame my flesh and fix my eyes,
a tethered mind freed from the lies.
 So, in conclusion,it is the death of democracy to just complacently accept unacceptable changes.  If that is the European way, than so be it.  But I hope to high heaven it never becomes the American way, because in my view whether or not one is comfortable with change should depend entirely on what that change is, and if it is wrong then fight it with all you have!

“A dead thing goes with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” ― G.K. Chesterton

Authentic progress, good laws, real charity and solid principles are always tethered to the unchanging truth.  If they are not, they will be blown straight to hell, and we will go with them.

Now, just for fun:

Update:  A couple good related links:

On Religious Liberty
On the Five Stages of Religious Persecution
USCCB's response to Joe Biden
A Reflection on the French Reveloution and the Struggle for Religious Liberty by, Donald Prudlo Phd

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence: The Dark of Halloween fades to the Light of the Saints

Happy All Saint's Day!  Hopefully your Halloween was fun with just the right amount of horror! Today is a great day to embrace the light that has overtaken the night. As one of my favorite Advent hymn, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence sings in the third stanza:
Rank on rank the host of heaven
spreads its vanguard on the way,
as the Light of light descendeth
from the realms of endless day,
that the powers of hell may vanish
as the darkness clears away.
And today is the day we celebrate the Saint's victory over the powers of hell, and pray for their assistance in our victory as well.  Because, although the horror on display on Halloween is often seen as the end in and of itself, (which is why it is sometimes so gratuitous - and hopeless), that horror points to the reality of what we fight against so that we too can become saints. The light of the saints reveals the darkness or our own lives, and what we have to fight against.  We do not fight against flesh and blood, we fight against powers and principalities   We cannot do it alone, we cannot resist the powers of hell in isolation or arrogance.  We need each other, we need the example of the saints, whose memories our Church preserves and honors so that we can benefit from the hope that they bear witness to. Because they show us that no horror endured in this world can overtake the glory that is growing in their souls (and ours as well if we accept it), though the powers of this world make it seem so.  The darkness they conjure is at times very black.  And we need to keep praying along with the saints and the hosts of heaven that our lives point to a hope that has not yet been revealed in its entirety, a hope that urges us to stop clinging to darkness, and face the pure light of Christ.

As C.S. Lewis points out, we are all everlasting souls, and in this life we are becoming one of two eternal destinies:  A soul of everlasting glory, a person that, if you saw them in that glory right now, you would be tempted to fall down and worship them for they would radiate God's splendor, or an everlasting horror, a being so terrible that you would not want to meet it in your worst nightmare.  But no one needs to meet the latter fate, all power for victory is available to you.  It is humble obedience the Father, who spares none of the heavenly hosts to assist you, and not just you, but all those you meet.

1 John 3:1-3
"Beloved:See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.  Yet so we are.  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Beloved we are God's children now;  what we shall be has not yet been revealed.  We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure."

The final stanza of the song quoted above always brings home to me what an unspeakable joy and honor that we have been given in our adoption by the Father. The powerful host of heaven veil their glorious faces to the presence, the presence that is Christ the Lord, Firstborn of the Dead and through Him we can also be sons and daughters of God.  It is this power that the saints hoped in, they hoped because of the love that was bestowed on them.

At His feet the six-winged seraph,
cherubim, with sleepless eye,
veil their faces to the presence,
as with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia,
Alleluia, Lord Most High! 

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Sass Master in Mordor

One of the most terrifying insights into evil that I have ever read was in C. S. Lewis' second book of his space trilogy, Perelandra.  In this book the hero, a man named Ransom, was charged with protecting an un-fallen planet and its inhabitants from suffering a fate like that of Earth's. He finds himself engaged in a battle of wits with the Evil One, who has possessed the body of the arrogant and deluded Professor Weston.  This un-man (as Lewis names it) is trying to tempt the Lady who inhabits this paradise to break the one rule that has been given her by Maledil (Jesus/God).  The demonic corpse beguiles the woman with many subtle temptations to vanity and to envy.  His preternatural intellect and cunning are slowly winning, but every once and a while the woman (and Ransom) need to rest.  When the demon is "off-duty" with only Ransom for company what we see is something quite different from the sly subtlety of  his temptation of the Lady of Perelandra.

"He (Ransom) had full opportunity to learn the falsity of the maxim that the Prince of Darkness is a gentleman....It was not like dealing with wicked politicians at all: It was much more like being set to guard an imbecile, or a monkey, or a nasty child.  What          had staggered and disgusted him when it first began saying "Ransom.....Ransom....."  continued to disgust him every day and every hour.  It showed plenty of subtlety and intelligence when talking to the Lady; but Ransom soon perceived that it regarded intelligence simply and solely as a weapon.....Thought was for it a device necessary to certain ends, but thought in itself did not interest it." Perelandra; Scribner 1972; pg. 110
In fact, Ransom had to endure long hours of this Un-man amusing itself by mutilating animals and plants, or performing juvenile obscenities with the body it inhabited, and endlessly, pointlessly repeating his name over and over again: "Ransom, Ransom, Ransom" When Ransom would respond it would say "nothing".

I bring this up because on Tuesday I took the Sass Master (aka Sophia) and her two year old brother to participate in our parish's day to keep the vigil for 40 Days For Life at a local Planned Parenthood facility. I told her we were going to Mordor, (yes, I have just gone from Lewis to Tolkien)  a place where the goodness of creation is corrupted and manipulated to such an extent that it becomes hell to everyone, where identity is based solely on material productivity and therefore everyone loses there authentic and God given human identity (along with their God given human rights). Where human freedom is cast off for enslaving licentiousness under the watch of a despotic eye whose main strategy is to cut you off from your true identity and from any hope in anything beyond the breath and vapors of this world. But, I digress.

 I am being so dramatic because the world around me seems so sleepy on this subject, and the temptation to despair every time I engage in this battle is growing; a creeping awareness that in the face of powers and principalities, who am I?  The cunning of our enemy is formidable - to lull us into the sleepy complacency that abortion is simply a medical option for those who are in hard situations, relieving us, the larger community, of the burden of having to provide assistance for both a mother and a baby.  Or, if a person has a more awakened sense of charity , the enemy will corrupt the ideal of fighting for human rights, cynically diminishing or idea of what is a worthwhile human life.  So we have impassioned people, who in the name of defending human rights, perversely end up on a slippery slope to despotism, placing the right to life on the shifting sands of the ever elusive concept of who is human enough to warrant the effort to defend said rights. The right to life now so precariously undermined, protecting those for whom the powers-that-be deem human enough, becomes an excuse to do away with other God-given rights.

This battle is difficult to engage. But, engage we must, with prayer and endurance.  We who stand for the right to life to be firmly and decisively placed at the moment of conception will stand our ground, because we have truth and science on our side.  They have lies and distortions.  Do you know what I often discover when one stands their ground in the face of evil?  That evil at it's core is tedious and infantile, and when it cannot dissuade you through cunning, it will simply provoke it's minions to taunting or obscene displays of profanity and silly, juvenile acts.  Hence the description of evil, and how banal and utilitarian it really is  by C.S.Lewis, is truly insightful.

So it should not surprise anyone, that while our group received a good deal of encouraging thumbs up, there were others who shouted out curses at us (along with the profane gestures) or who menacingly watched us as they repeatedly (and at a distance) circled the block we were on. But most silly, and disturbing of all was the actions of an elderly man.  He had approached my friend Angie earlier.  She was holding a sign showing a baby in the 6th month of fetal development, and I guess he wanted to know what we were doing.  He began to ask her what she was holding, and Angie cheerfully turned around to show him the picture.  As soon as he saw it he stopped talking mid sentence, grunted "OH" turned around and left.  Angie looked back at me, we both shrugged (Angie, who has a much more generous heart than me, actually smiled and said "I'm not sure what that was about.").  But that old guy had more to reveal to us about the depth of his soul, and the weakness of his intellect.

As an elderly couple, who were taking our place, were busy getting set up and Angie and I were preparing to leave, a shabby pickup quickly drove up in the parking lot we had our backs to. I was holding the Sass Master, and she was resting her head on my shoulder, her face toward the parking lot while her brother was securely strapped in his stroller, when I felt a splash on my neck and Sophia jumped.  I turned around to see this old man with a spray bottle full of what I believe was water shooting it at us cackling the whole way!  Sophia was hit square in the face, (otherwise no one would have noticed because he was spraying us from behind and we were all covered in coats and long sleeves, as it was a bit cold out).

Was he defending the "right to choose"?  Was he just a weak-minded coward who gets his jollies pranking woman, children and the elderly?  What point was he making to spray a four year old girl in the face?  (My dear friend Angie, who only noticed what happened because of Sophia, and in her completely un-cynical heart thought that possibly he was spraying holy water on us....yeah, old men often bless a group by sneaking behind them to spray them cackling as they speed off).  In reality, C.S.Lewis sums up his actions, and the cause that provoked them perfectly, and also the actions of many other groups that stand against Truth:

"If the attack had been of some more violent kind it might have been easier to resist.  What chilled and almost cowed him was the union of malice and something nearly childish....Indeed, no imagined horror could have surpassed the sense which grew within him as the slow hours passed, that this creature was by all human standards inside out- it's heart on the surface and its shallowness at the heart.  On the surface great designs and an antagonism to Heaven which involved the fate of the worlds:  but deep within, when every veil had been pierced, ...nothing but a black puerility, an aimless empty spitefulness content to sate itself with the tiniest cruelties, as love does not disdain the smallest kindness." (Perelandra; pg106)

So what to do from here?  Stand our ground, fight the good fight and put on the armor of God (to which my fellow blogger, Joze, suggested that we add goggles to that armor) and as Saint Paul wrote from his prison cell:

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if the is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you."  Philippians 4:8-9
And so we will!  The Sass Master (who -  true to her sassy nickname -  was completely unruffled by the incident and quickly concluded that since we were in Mordor that man must have been an orc) is ready, and so am I!  But with goggles!

photo by Heidi Knofczynski

Peace and Grace!

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Reflection on Mark 9:30-37

What is the antidote to the blinding whirlwinds of selfish ambition and jealous envy? It is not simply to  reject our ambitions, passions or desires, we must daily submit these desires to the reality that the earthly fulfillment of them is not necessarily the goal.  As C.S.Lewis says in his essay The Weight of Glory  "We are far too easily pleased",  however, we are never deeply satisfied. This Sunday's readings are filled with the consequences of selfish ambition, which may temporarily please us, but in reality will blind us to our real needs.  Which explains Saint James in the second reading where he explains why we do not receive from the Lord what we ask for.  We do not know what we really need.  As I read over the Gospel for this Sunday I was thinking of another C.S. Lewis quote from the same essay. "It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us..."   But how do we strengthen and hone our ambition for this eternal joy, how do we catch sight of our hearts desire?

Mk 9:30-37

"Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it.  He was teaching his disciples and telling them, 'The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.'  But they did not understand the saying and they were afraid to question him.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, 'What were you arguing about on the way?'  But they remained silent.  They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.  Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, 'If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.'  Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them 'whoever receives on child such as this in my name receives me;  and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me."

Jesus instructs his disciples, they perceive in His words deep mysteries, and profound destinies, but they are afraid to go deeper with Him.  Maybe they are afraid what Jesus is predicting:  Suffering?  Death?  They do not seem to quite understand what He means by resurrection.  Even so, great ambitions and passions are stirred up.  And, as often happens in our human weakness, these passions are misunderstood, and  misdirected.  Their half-hearted understanding of the unlimited love of God leads them to apply the energy of these great stirrings in their soul to arguing about gaining earthly glory for themselves.  They have missed the higher calling of their Lord.  They have forgotten the abundant glory God has to give. They are following the ambitions in their hearts along a very horizontal trajectory, but Jesus is leading them to the heights of glory.  Than later on in the day when they had come to a place of rest , Jesus asks them "What were you arguing about on the way?"

Right here is the opportunity to depart from the earthbound path.  Do you take a moment each day to allow the Lord to speak to you, convict you and redirect you?   Do you take at least a quiet minute or two for a daily Examen? In the Gospel there is a silence that follows the Lord's question.  This feels to me like an Examen prayer;  the twelve disciples, are not perfect, not always doing things with a deep understanding of themselves or of Christ (they sound a bit like me actually)...but, unlike the wicked men in the first reading, they have the humility stop and listen to Jesus, they have opened their hearts to Him enough to allow the Lord to show them where they are transgressing and where they are violating their training.  

And there is no need to be afraid to deeply examine your motives and your desires with His help, as the disciples originally were.  The Lord will not harshly condemn all of your misdirected passions and desires; He will show you what they are for.  He will purify your vision for things that are eternal, and this will reorder your desires.  He will help you to take your focus off of yourself so you can see the least and the weakest around you and you will bear upon yourself a bit of the weight of their salvation, to weaken your selfish motives - for you can never expect any earthly compensation for this service. And with a purer vision you will see that the initial desire for greatness and glory is an inborn desire to catch the eye of the Beloved and have him smile upon you.  It sounds like such a little thing, so easily overlooked for what appears to be  glitzier and grander achievements in the here and now, and yet it is everything.  But it takes time and a willingness to listen in prayer and attune yourself to the deep stirrings of His Spirit in your soul.

In the end the ambition and desire to be the greatest is not necessarily an evil if you submit your motives to Christ's direction. It our fallen response to the longing to be approved of and enfolded into the arms of the Father.  The fulfillment of our deepest desire is to be that child wrapped in the arms of Jesus. 


I don't know why, but I really think that this song is a great preparation for anyone who might feel just a little intimidated by allowing Jesus in to direct all the strength and potency of our passions to the fulfillment in the love that awaits you in the arms of Jesus.  Do not be afraid to allow Him to show you where your passions are directing you!  

Peace and Grace!  Heidi

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Oh Jerusalem! Jerusalem! A Lament for Spirit Haunted Souls

Sometimes I am so disturbed by an event that I have too many thoughts to put into a straight reflection, and though I am not a trained poet ,(any constructive advice is appreciated) it is the only way to relate the emotions that I feel.  I originally wrote this  lament as an assignment for our Biblical School in Omaha. I choose to write about my disturbance over a few horrific events in 2008 and 2009, namely the horrible Von Maur shootings and the events surrounding the Boston Craigslist killings.  Two young men, created in the image and likeness of our Lord, whose moral and spiritual weakness completely undid them.  As individuals they were completely different, there corruption, however, was diabolically similar. While our  post Christian, scientific humanistic culture removes moral barriers, these young men progressed into selfishness and darkness that left their souls empty of hope. And we our stunned; we fool ourselves, by trying to remove the weapons that destroy the body, while complacently allowing these philosophies that subtly numb our yearning for transcendence and bind us to finite earthly hope.  Paving a rocky pathway to a desolation so dark that it claims you past, present and future. Destroying both body and soul! I still pray for their souls; I wish not one to go to Hell, particularly youth whose debasement was added and abetted by our toxic culture. I now add another young man to this lament!

Oh Jerusalem! Jerusalem!

My soul is sorrowful, even unto death
Take pity on our children
For we have lead them to darkness
Progressed them to the edge of Sheol;
We despised archetypes,
Gave them platitudes, de-mythologized their world
Diminished hopes, famished souls.
God, you would be their strength!
Their beauty!
Little souls now claim their weaknesses as their identity;
In the beginning it was not so!
Exchanging glory for shame, and call it freedom;
Post Christian,
trans-gendered slavery.

My soul is sorrowful, even unto death
Our children cry for strength,
They cry for meaning,
Purpose, dignity and honor;
Deathly emptiness haunts them.
They grasp at pleasure, wealth, and fame,
Debased yearning for transcendence, hearken to the siren song of
We have ignored eternal truth;
We have told them to find their own truth;
Founded in philosophies that have roots in
In weakness;
In darkness.

Why are we surprised when evil overtakes them?
(Let your mighty wind blow over the abyss)
Why are we surprised that they have no strength?
(Let your mighty wind blow over the abyss)
When darkness debases and seduces them?
(Let you mighty wind blow over our souls)

My soul is sorrowful, even unto death
We are bloated with hedonism
Deprived of true joy
Darkness stalks us
We lack stamina, mere phantoms we go our way
Our eyes grow dim
Why are you sleeping?
Our young men are emasculated;
seeking immortality through robbery, rape and murder!
Why has nobody told you?
Our young women are barren;
grasping at their beauty, ignorant of its meaning.
They have bought and sold you!
Empty bombast!  Slaves of corruption!
Why are you still sleeping?

My soul is sorrowful even unto death!
Within our midst kindle a blazing heart, multiply virtue
Awake Fear of the Lord
We fly to your protection in our desperation.
Let no more of our children be devoured by Leviathan,
ensnared by their own hunger;
The serpent who removes the small snares,
lures us to a bottomless pit.
Slaves of corruption!
Gratifying every desire of the flesh,
To become a rotted loincloth.
Not clinging to You!
Rotted loincloths!

In the beginning it was not so!
(Let your mighty wind blow over the abyss!)
Oh Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
(Let you might wind blow over the abyss!)
Do not fear what harms the body!
(Let the mighty wind blow over the chaotic abyss!)

Give us the strength to endure your justice!

Give us the heart to endure your mercy!

Peace and Grace,

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Summertime Shambles!

photo by Heidi Knofczynski

What have you done this summer?  This has been an off year for me, I have not even tried to develop a schedule for the kids, so that I can remain a little sane, and the house can at least get the minimum maintenance. I am not sure what has happened to the time, but as usual, there are many things that I wanted to accomplish that I have not - this year is even more so.

Like for instance, figure out what exactly is my vision for this blog is, or have my 11 year old finally memorize all her math facts, read the Iliad and work with my rowdy hooligans so they are completely prepared for school which is right around the corner. I did not even get my kids to the summer library program, which is the first time that has happened since ....1994.  I am plodding away, but even when I accomplish something, the stuff I have not done looms even larger, and the days are slipping away! I feel completely out of control!

This past week (is it really FRIDAY already????), I have..... read to my kids...made Miranda read to her siblings, weeded the overgrown gardens, started my 16 year old on his summer reading, looked at Facebook, email, blogs email, blogs ect, ect... had dinner ready for my husband, organized... looked at my vacation pictures, threw in a couple loads of laundry, ironed, attend daily mass...went to one daily mass (don't be impressed, I went this morning and it is the one and only daily mass I have made it to all summer). I could go on and on, but I am tired of hitting the strikethrough button.

Not that I didn't accomplishments anything, I did manage to produce a few video montages, like this one:

Clearly a work of high spiritual magnitude. Sigh....  I also did manage (barely) to remember to get that Sass Master Sophia to her community center dance class, and though I did get her hair brushed and put up, I failed to make sure that she had some shorts on under her skirt so the entire class now knows that, unbeknownst to me, she was wearing her brothers underwear.  I should be glad that she had underwear on at all, because that is not a given.

I have not only failed in quite a few of my cultural pursuits for myself and my children, but I have failed to get down and serious about my prayer journal, about my Scripture readings. Which is really frustrating, because the summers usually give me at least a little quiet time in the morning while the rest of the kids sleep in to go a little deeper. This year the baby has been up before me almost every morning, except when we were on vacation. At this point in my summer, I am beginning to feel hopeless, any effort to pray gets diffused by so many distractions, so, consequently I feel far away from the Lord. Here is where I usually give up.

My spiritual director would remind me to keep praying when I can, and, in true Ignation style, when I am beginning to feel hopeless and far away from the Lord, to pray just a wee bit more. God first, always even when I do not feel like it - especially when I don't feel like it - and most especially when it feels like I am wasting my time. Which is why, after my very distracted and interrupted morning prayer and Scripture time, I moved heaven and earth (I got 16 year old Stephen out of bed by 8am) to get to mass by myself. And what do you suppose the 1st reading was?

Isaiah 38:1When Hezekiah was mortally ill, the prophet Amoz came and said to him: "Thus says the Lord, put your house in order, for you are about to die..."

Well. that was distracting! My thought was: "I know, I know, I am drowning in disorganization,but really, I am hopeless, I can't even see how to get my rag-tag household in order!"  But the readings continued, and we heard that Hezekiah prayed to the Lord and his hopeless illness was healed by the Lord.

 And then the Gospel of Matthew:

Mt 12:1-8  Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath.  His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them.  When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath."  He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry, how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering, which neither he nor his companions but only the priests could lawfully eat?  Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate that sabbath and are innocent?  I say to you something greater than the temple is here.  If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men.  For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath."

He is greater than my messes, He is greater than any of my successes, He is Lord of my ambitions and Lord of my desires, and He is Lord of my failures. And it is my failures that allow me to begin to see the tremendous gulf between me and the Lord; not in selfish self-conscientiousness, but with awe and reverence.  Because I am the lowly, rag-tag disciple hungering for more, and He defends me against the savvy accusers.  I am cast down so he can lift me up and I am weak enough for His glory to show through me.  If I let Him.   If I push my ego out of the way and take up His yoke, as we heard in yesterday's Gospel.  Pray that I do so, I will pray for you also. 

As I was coming back from receiving Him in the Eucharist, I felt Him ask me if I felt any better.  I said yes, I think I can take on my day, and the rest of my summer. And I will trust that He will reform it into something only He could accomplish!

Peace and Grace,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fourth of July with the Genzlingers at

We had a very blessed and wonderful Fourth of July with good friends from Montana! Even with a fireworks ban and a foiled excursion to a lake for some swimming, we had a pretty good day.  Of course it was the last day of the Fortnight for Freedom, but we continue our prayers for our country and for religious freedom!

I put it all to the tune of Matt Maher's Woke up in America, from his album the Love in Between.  The whole album is a good one!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Vacation Bible School, and Encounter with Jesus

I spent a week doing the Wild Blue Bible Adventure room for our church's Sky High Vacation Bible School. The main theme was trust God and we took him up on that by throwing in a twist in that we actually put in a Jesus character (along with a Centurion character and Simon Peter ect.) And, it proved to be a much more profound encounter with God in His Word, and a lesson in how we meet Jesus in the Eucharist and every time we pray! The two days that Jesus was not physically present the kids longed to see him! And when he reappeared on the last day, they were thrilled!

It was a blessed and exhausting week, and I thank my good friends Angie and Anne because without them it could not be done! And I thank my son Stephen who helped with set decorating and played Jesus, as well as Angie's son Stephen who also helped with the sets and was our character actor extraordinaire (St.Peter, the Centurion....). Anne's daughter Claire was also stuck in a costume on day 2! Angie's daughter Emily also helped out a great deal ( the palm trees in the background have their foliage due to her artistic talents!)  In the end, no matter what....Trust God!

I know that there are some who discount this particular VBS as light weight, low on teaching and (gasp) protestant in origin.  But I say you get out of it what you put into it, and as we did in our Bible room, there is plenty of opportunities to tweak it!

Here is a video of our week, but it is only of our Bible Adventure room, there were many other stations as well!

Friday, June 15, 2012

the boring Mr. Dawkins

Richard Dawkins can mock the idea of the Real Presence all he wants.  As he appears to be quite the intellectual, I am going to take his word that he has analyzed the Real Presence and has come to a conclusion.  He has chosen.  He is very clear on that.  As a Catholic Christian I can accept this choice because I believe that we are recipients of the gift of free will.  If  I choose to abandon my faith  and agree with his decision that leaves me with only one option, a very boring, lonely reality.

I personally want more than what he offers.  I beg for more.  It is kind of like listening to a story teller sharing a mystery story.  I want the creative animated speaker, not the monotone unimaginative one.  I certainly can hear the words of the monotone voice, but to be honest I find it incredibly dull and difficult to pick up the clues and stay focused on what is being said.  I typically stop listening and become self absorbed.  I'll take the speaker who pulls me into the story and engages my mind to push itself to try to figure it out.  I began to think less of myself and began to become aware of something more and intriguing.

I love the fact that I am not limited to what Dawkin's calls reality. I love the mysteries of the Eucharist.  I can't explain fully the rush I get when I think about the idea that as I am consuming the Body of Christ I am part of all those who went before me, all those who right now are participating, and all those who will participate when I am gone.  All of that!  I AM part of that Body, that Presence. AND that is just one attempt to figure it out.  God is not limited by our limited definitions of time, place, and form so imagine what is possible!  How exciting! 

 I feel sad for Mr. Dawkins as I love (desire good for the other) and know that his time here on earth is limited, as it is for all of us. He has further limited himself from some rather lively and interesting facets of thinking by declaring such a small literal view of reality. 

Jesus knew exactly what he was doing when he gave us His Body and Blood.  To consume Him (What a radically startling thought!) involves interaction of mind, body, and spirit.  If I did not do this or look at it in light of what my faith teaches my thoughts would become more focused on myself and I would forget to look for more, to see the clues revealed. It would be a rather boring thing- just eating bread.  That I would find incredibly lacking and dull.  I'll take an engaging faith with some mystery.  That is my choice and I sure find it interesting.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Unrestrained Love or Coffee Spoons? A Meditation on the Visitation

Picture taken by Miranda Knofczynski

 Today is the Feast of the Visitation, when Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth.  This feast is a wonderful opportunity to ponder how we encounter and respond to the movements of the Lord.  Mary hears the words of the Angel Gabriel, and she believes.  She believes and she responds, not only with her great fiat -"be it done to me according to thy word" - but also with an immediate act of charity and generosity, anticipating the needs of her cousin.  In haste Mary goes to Elizabeth, who is expecting to give birth "in her old age" to the prophet John the Baptist.  Mary holds nothing back, she responds to God immediately, and He in turn holds nothing back from her. God responds to Mary's unrestrained giving of herself with a joyous affirmation, by Elizabeth, of the unbelievable events that are occurring. Elizabeth's prophetic response to the Holy Spirit was:
"Most blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does it happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy,  Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." 
Both she and Elizabeth believed and responded with the whole of their hearts!  What would happen if you and I responded to God with such generosity?  What would happen if all the passion and desire that we so easily allow to misdirect us, or, even worse, through fear we suppress, were given over to the Lord with a daily fiat? What could happen if we accepted our lowliness, our nothingness without fear and allowed the Mighty One to sweep us away in His divine love?  What  could happen if we did not fear the deep emptiness that reveals our spiritually starved souls , but feared comfort that dulls and obscures our longings until it was too late and we are too lost?  Time is running out for you and for me.  Can we respond with Mary's beautiful canticle, rejoicing in our nothingness, because it is that humility which allows the unfathomable love of God to direct our paths through this valley of tears?

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones; but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant remembering his mercy according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

Maybe this seem like an odd diversion, but I have just re-read T.S. Eliot's poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.  There are various analyses of the poem, but just today I watched a YouTube video on the Holy Spirit by Father Robert Barron in which he used a quote from the poem, " I have measured out my life in coffee spoons" as an example of a life lived withholding generous love.  A life lived afraid and unresponsive to passion and desire, and Prufrock is aware that his time to act is running out. It struck me that the frustrated sense of decay, unfulfilled longings and desires that  permeates the poem speaks of a lack of the overflowing love of the Spirit of God.  A withholding of love indicates a lack of love. The stanza before has Prufrock wondering "Do I dare disturb the universe?"  Well, with the Spirit of God directing those longings, desires and passions they will not only not be suppressed, they will fearlessly pour out with love unending and disturb the universe, but in a way according to the word of God.   

Brothers and sisters:  Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; anticipate one another in showing honor.  Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.  rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you, do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation.  Romans 12: 9-16
 Respond to God as Mary did; disturb the universe! Not by grasping at power or by fantasizing about mighty deeds, but by the transformation of your heart and soul through the humble reception of the Word! Let the Spirit flow through you with courage and joy, anticipating the needs of others and pouring out with unrestrained love.  Do you dare disturb the universe?  Do I?  Let us pray with Mary and Elizabeth today for an unrestrained and passionate response to the Spirit!

Peace and Grace!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Garden Canticle

Spring is here, and in this Marian month of May, with yard work and spring cleaning in progress (okay, I have not started spring cleaning) my two youngest and I spent a morning playing under the watchful and peaceful gaze of Mary. I tried to say a Rosary while the kids were running and climbing, but alas!  Motherhood means praying on the run, so instead I let my spirit lead me;  and how can you resist praying her beautiful canticle from Luke 1: 46-55?

My soul does magnify the Lord.  And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour.  Because He has regarded the humility of His handmaid:  for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  Because He that is mighty has done great things for me:  and holy is His name.

photo by Heidi Knofczynski

And His mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear Him.  He has shown the might of His arm:  He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.  He has put down the mighty from their seat and has exalted the humble.  

Photo by Heidi Knofczynski

He has filled the hungry with good things:  and the rich He has sent empty away.  He has received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy.  And He spoke to our fathers:  to Abraham and to his seed forever.

Photo by Heidi Knofczynski
Photo by Heidi Knofczynski

We had only one mishap, Max pulled a wheel barrow full of soil on top of himself!  Nothing that a hug and a bath did not fix! And it gave me pause to reflect that even when we have muddied ourselves in our sin, we know that Our Lady will gently guide us into reconciliation and repentance so that we can be cleansed in His loving mercy!  

Photo by Heidi Knofczynski

May the prayers of the Mother of God be with all who read this blog. May her praise of our Lord ring joyfully in our hearts!  And may we respond to her request to "do whatever He asks of you."

Peace and Grace,

Friday, May 4, 2012


I had to laugh after watching a trailer for a new movie coming out.  Given Hollywood's perpetual mockery of the Catholic Church it is no real surprise that the part that caused the laugh was actually an uncharitable attempt at humor on the movie maker's part at the expense of Catholicism.  The line more or less implied that a Catholic does not think for themselves.
Why I laughed? There was great irony in that line.  Funny thing is the Church has always taught that free will, intellect, and reason are gifts from God and we are to use them.  It seems far more appropriate to imply  Hollywood as being the institution that encourages little thought.
A PERSON (not an angel)  trying to live an authentic Catholic life responds to the demands of deeper thought and effort.  They tend to hold themselves accountable for their words and deeds (Confession).  To adhere to the tenets of a demanding faith is far more challenging than giving into society's easy relativism .
 Obedience and humility are no easy feat for most of us.  Offering up our suffering and putting ourselves second is also no easy feat for most of us.  Tempering emotions and showing genuine love are not easy feats either.  These things are just the beginning of what we are called to do and each one of them requires a whole lot of thought and effort.  Sometimes it even requires our lives (Martyrs) 
The Church has challenged us to look beyond ourselves and the moment.  We are called to keep walking the road to the ultimate goal - being with God forever.  Even when society mocks Catholics we are to keep steadily on the road revealed to us from the time of Adam and Abraham through Jesus our Savior to today and tomorrow in the Church guided by the Holy Spirit. 
A little ironic humor certainly keeps the journey on this road interesting.-joze

Sunday, April 29, 2012

To Whom Shall You Go?

 I have been completely absorbed in the the space trilogy by C.S. Lewis of late.  Actually I read the first of the three, Out of the Silent Planet last summer, but recently purchase the last two, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength.   They are books that I imagine I will be re-reading again in the future because there is so much there.

It was as I was reading That Hideous Strength that I came upon a passage that really impressed me.  It is a quote by a character named Dr. Dimble as the final battle is beginning.  He is on the side of good, but there are mysteries that he is grappling with that are hard for him to fully understand and his leader, the Director, has commanded him to accept.  As he is discussing things over with his wife he says:
Have you ever noticed,.....that the universe, and every little bit of the universe, is always hardening and narrowing and coming to a point?....I mean this,....If you dip into any college, or school, or parish, or family- anything you like- at a given point in its history you always find that there was a time before that point when there was more elbow room and contrasts weren't quite so sharp; and that there;s going to be a time after that point when there is even less room for indecision and codices are even more momentous  Good is always getting better and bad is always getting worse:  the possiblities of even apparent neutrality are always diminishing."  pg.280-281 
That captured my attention, and it is further fleshed out in the story. We are, for a time, gathered in and then - as with the Biblical image of a winnowing fan - we are separated out.  There are examples of situations that are accepted as morally neutral or tolerated as a necessity of an era in the Bible, but that eventually are revealed as unacceptable, such as Old Testament polygamy.  It is certainly presented in the Bible as something that is accepted, but it is definitely a falling from the original Biblical example of marriage.  And if you read your Bible carefully you see that though it is not wrong for Jacob or David, to have multiple wives and concubines, it costs them something.  Look at the jealousies and rivalries that come of it.  The eventual splitting of the Davidic Kingdom has it's beginnings in the corrosive effect of polygamy.  And the cost is sent on down the generations, until it is time to see and understand; until it is time to make a choice.  As we progress through salvation history, or even our own lives it will eventually come down to a choice, a terrible choice that requires clarity of vision and tenacious clinging to the Word of God.  Our eternal destiny will rest on it.

These thoughts have been turning over in my head for a while now, the passage just brought new clarity for me, especially in the wake of some acrimonious discussions over the issue of  "gay-marriage".  But it is not that issue that primarily bothers me, that is one of many moral issues that are confronting us in our time.  It is how we are coming to a point in our society, and choices will have to be made, and I wonder how clear we, as a culture, see the issues.  I wonder if we have been given just enough of Jesus in our religious instruction to make us think that we know what His love means, but in reality we have inoculated ourselves from being truly overtaken by His radical love.  His radical love is not tepid "acceptance" or "tolerance", it is a purifying fire.  Unless you have ordered your life on the Commandments, putting His will in front, it will be difficult to understand what a shallow sham our culture has made of love, and from there a degenerative blindness seems to set in.  Even when the choice is presented point blank, it becomes too difficult to proceed in the way of the Spirit.

Today's reading (for Saturday, April 28) makes this even more urgent in my mind:

 "Many disciples of Jesus who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?"  Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you?  What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  It is the Spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.   The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life,  But there are some of you who do not believe."  Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.  And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father."  As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer walked with him.  Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"  Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."   John 6 60-69

This is at the end of the Bread of Life discourse.  Jesus is telling his followers to believe that they must "feed on me" or they will have no life in them.  They are shocked, they are confronted with something hard to believe, something that seems foolish and not rational (verse 42:  and they said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?  Do we not know his father and mother?  Then how can he say, 'I have come down from heaven'?").    Many of the Lord's disciples no longer walked with Jesus from that point on.  But Peter shows us that he has clung to and believed in the words of the Lord, and when confronted with the choice - though he is as yet not perfected in his belief, nor does he completely understand what the Lord is saying- his love for the Lord clears the way for his courageous words.  And it is this choice that prepares Peter to humbly trust in Jesus, even after his betrayal of Him, he does not despair in his failure but receives with trust and conviction  the abundant mercy of the Lord.  How can we navigate ourselves in this era of hardening and narrowing of our own beliefs?  How can we discern the will and love of God in a time when love is perverted, materialistic, weak and used to blind and divert ourselves from the Truth?  To whom shall you go?  To whom shall you cling to?  A terrible choice is beginning to emerge-choose life, not death.

Peace and Grace,

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Facebook: Conforming Complacency or Transforming Love

"I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.  Do not conform to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect."  Romans 12:1-2 NAB

Facebook..... what an invitation to mediocrity in debate.  What a temptation to un-reflective pontificating (of course blogging can be also - I suppose).  St.Paul where are you when we need you!  How badly we need a St. Paul of Facebook, or is it Twitter now?

Someone I know posted a link on Facebook a while ago, which included a picture of a Bishop with the word bigot scrawled across it, and it was bravely challenged by another Facebook friend of mine.  The Bishop's crime was in attempting to teach his flock about the Catholic view of marriage and family and the link was challenged not because of hatred for homosexuals, which was insinuated, nor was it challenged because she blindly follows the Bishops, which was also an accusation that was thrown out.  She was not "casting stones" thoughtlessly.  This post was challenged because it was slanderous name-calling; an offence against charity. This may have surprised the one who posted it, since he firmly believes that he speaks on behalf of love, justice and peace.  In his mind, he was on the side of righteousness, which I guess, for him, means you can say anything you want; because, you know, the end justifies the means.

Accusations of homophobia were then quickly leveled at her (and me, for indicating my support for her and the Church with a comment and a lot of "likes").  We were on the side of hate, intolerance and blind obedience. It was an ugly display of self righteousness, justified by "Jesus platitudes" that were completely severed from the Scripture they were taken from.  And it was not only the young man, but a cadre of supporters, who jumped into the conversation for the sake of peace, and justice, and of course always for love.   But it is a counterfeit love, one that weakens and blinds.  One that dulls the intellect and reduces charity to superficial works, to making things look better, not actually transforming brokenness, just re-defining what it is. This counterfeit love affirms vice, and discourages virtue. It will damn you in the end.

Unfortunately these views are not surprising, the sentimentality that is exacerbated by our social media culture demands that feelings rule the day, until your feelings - which is your conscience in this view -  fade and/or change.  Moral laws that are hard to follow are intolerant and unjust. What was so amazing was that when his charity was challenged his tolerance is what really dissipated, and he, and his friends began to rant and rave about how the Church was our biggest problem.  He ended up throwing out a vague threat that we should watch what we posted in the future! Reminds me of a Flannery O'Connor quote (taken from a work of Elizabeth Scalia):  "In the absence of faith, we govern by tenderness, and tenderness leads to the gas chambers."  

Thus, he very quickly began a mini-sermon using selective bits of Scripture.  The Gospel story from John about the woman caught in adultery was used to illustrate that merely questioning his post was the equivalent of casting stones like a self righteous Pharisee, but they failed to note that if he applied that same measure to his link it easily implicated his post.  Moreover he failed to remember Jesus in that Scripture did not dismiss the woman's sin as nothing, He held out a better way for the woman accused of adultery:  "go and sin no more".  He gave her room to repent and to order her love to Him.  And He gave insight to those who would be casting stones that the One whose finger carved the Law into stone did so not to condemn us in our brokenness, nor to leave us there,  but to lift us out of the muck of our disordered desires. The redeeming love of Christ does not leave us to center our identity around our disordered desires!!! Yet, the forum we were using to debate this post did not encourage such deep thinking, it was all tired talking points and immature zingers and threats that dominate in these Facebook discussions. No progression of thought or even building on an idea.

But, I will leave you with one bright spot in this whole ugly display.  This is what a beautiful young lady posted in response to the whole sordid affair, so as He always does, God leaves us with a remnant of hope.

"It really saddens me that you keep calling us homophobic, I have not and will not ever discriminate (against) someone based on sex, ethnicity, ect. Have you ever seen me judge someone or treat someone unfair because of who they are, no, I have never acted like that because we are called to love all, but still that does not make gay marriage correct, and it does not make living with a "partner"correct either.  God made man and women to compliment each other, and to confuse these roles in marriage goes against what God intended us for.  Does that mean I will love someone less because they are gay?  No, But if I were to allow them to marry it would be a sin, and I would never want any one to live in sin because sin pushes us farther away from God and I want to be as close to God as possible so we all may reach our ultimate goal, Heaven." 

 There was more, but that gives you the gist of her response.  Concise, factual and charitable, no one was called a name, no one was talked down to.   Hope is kindled!  Yes, there are some young people who know what authentic, strong, courageous and unyielding love really is, and are prepared to defend it - even on Facebook!

However, I was left with a  real sadness.  With all the references made about Jesus, many made by those claiming to be well-formed Catholics, I discerned no relationship with Him.  There was flat banal platitudes, but not a loving relationship.  Love transforms weakness and the world, it does not conform to it.  And I believe that, with a few of the individuals involved in this discussion, if they were really touched by His transforming love, the good that could be done through them would be astounding!

Jesus is clear that to love God is to follow His commands, they are the pathway to union with Him because they transform us to be like Him.  They lead us to out true identity - they do not condemn us to find our identity in our basest, weakest desires, but help us to order our desires to the One who created us.   They give us the heart to love Him and eyes to behold Him.

 Do you know what I think happened to the woman caught in adultery after her encounter with Jesus?  When He looked at her and said: "Neither do I condemn you, go and from now on do not sin anymore.",   I think she looked deep into the eyes of The Light of the World, the Alpha and Omega, the Divine Lover and saw in them the fulfillment of all her desires.  I think that from that moment all that she had to let go of in order to come to the Beloved was put into perspective.  And she followed Him.  Love transforms.

 Peace and Grace,

Here is a YouTube montage featuring Matt Maher and Audrey Assad singing Garden.  A song where that describes the transforming love of the Father when we allow Him to enter into garden of our hearts.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Poke and a Prayer

We have always taken a minute or two after tucking the kids in to think about things we are thankful for during the day.  I am not sure exactly when our middle child started adding the pope to her nightly  list but I am sure I commented on what a good thing this was to do as this was surely no easy job.  Our youngest, not wanting to be bested in any way or not wanting to leave ANYONE out (or speed up the process of the lights getting turned off) started to add the pope to his nightly list too.  However, he thought his older sibling had said the "poke".  So every night for about a year we gave thanks for the poke.  I always pictured God chuckling when he was asked for this odd special request.  (I also imagine being all knowing would come in handy trying to interpret the mind of a child.)
While this story is dear to my motherly heart, it also reminds me of the need we have to pray for those who guide and lead us in our faith.  Especially lately when ideas that are not readily welcomed by society are discussed.  It is never an easy thing to share unpopular truths.  The pope, bishops, and priests are people, and no person likes to be unloved or unwelcomed. What strength of character it must take to speak truth when it is not popular.  How trusting in the Lord they must be to get up infront of masses of people and speak on things that make some present squirm and bristle.  How lovingly generous they are to do the work they do.
So...Thank you priests, bishops, and pope! May the Holy Spirit guide and strengthen you!-joze