Last night, I sorta-kinda-totally flew off into a seething fit of rage against my husband and his incessant need to confine my personal thoughts and feelings into a tiny, misshapen box labelled "Force-Fed Ideologies of Christianity: Brainwash Edition."
I fully admit that I lost all semblance of sanity in the brief war of words (which wasn't a war so much as a massacre), but even whilst waging verbal warheads at his lackluster logic, I was able to cling to the truth of my Faith, and I think he'll reflect a little longer before attributing my personal opinions to the dusty religious textbooks of my childhood.
How did this all start?
Well, a quick refresher: John is an independent filmmaker who has sold two films and is working on two others. One of these latter projects we watched together for the purpose of draft-correction.
This is a period in post-production where you watch a film thirty billion times to check for any sort of lighting errors, sound issues, continuity problems, music arrangement, etc.
Seriously. It's like drafting and redrafting your novel to make the best possible product. However, since you can't use a red pen on DVDs, you sit in front of the TV with a notebook and take notes until your hands fall off. Then you use your feet.
John is in the early stages of that, and he asked for my opinions. We watched the draft together a few nights ago, and I offered various comments on the different characters, story lines and technical issues I saw. He seemed to take them all in stride, and by the end of the movie, we were both ready for bed. It's an exhausting process.
Last night he had a meeting with the director to go over his (and my) notes from the draft screening. The director is a good friend of my husband's and we both adore taking him and his wife out to dinner. They're good people whom I like and respect.
When I asked John how the meeting went, he said it was fine. He explained how he presented our notes to the director, and the conversation sorta blew up from there.
You see, I felt that there were too many "main characters" in the movie. I only ended up caring about two - three characters (instead of the 6 - 7 that were vying for attention). I said, "I wish the movie was only about Tom and Steve. I don't really care about anyone else."
John took that to mean, "Gina only likes the 'wholesome' characters and doesn't like the ones with immoral lifestyle choices because she's Catholic."
He accuses me of stuff like this all the time. I think last night was the last straw because he imparted this to the director and his wife which, in my mind, made me look like some sort of brainwashed space cadet who has no capacity to reason for herself.
That drives me up a wall.
I hate when my religion is blamed for things he doesn't agree with me on.
She doesn't believe in divorce? Oh... must be all that Catholic guilt. Couldn't possibly be due to the fact that my wife loves me and believes that love can endure even the most difficult of burdens.
She wants a big family. OBVIOUSLY that's because her Church tells her she can't use birth control and should shoot out all the babies she can possibly make. There's no WAY it could be an intense, natural longing that she's harbored and documented since she was a child.
She doesn't believe in homosexual marriage? Pfft - her archaic old Church is homophobic so she must step in line or face excommunication. If she could, just for a second, think for herself (poor girl) she'd realize that children don't have the natural right to a mother and father. All those studies that have proven children of homosexual couples face higher rates of suicide, depression, social integration issues and gender confusion couldn't have had anything to do with that, right? Right?!
She doesn't like characters in my movie. There's no way the characters are just poorly shaded out or make themselves sound pathetic or egotistical, especially in an early draft. No way! Can't possibly be anything wrong with how we've chosen to tell the story. Obviously her brainwashed Christian values are to blame, because Lord knows she can't formulate her own opinion.
I hate being made out to be some brainless moron. My husband of all people should know better than that. So I flipped out. Majorly. And to my surprise, he did an about-face within minutes. He gave me a sincere apology and admitted he deserved the verbal backlash I'd unleashed.
He doesn't understand why I accept Catholic teaching because it doesn't make sense to him. However, I don't understand how he thinks football is entertaining but I don't hold that as prime reason for him hating HGTV.
Anyway, when I reiterated my reasoning WHY I didn't like (or was bored by) certain characters, he admitted his mistake and apologized for instantly blaming my dislike for them on some pointless connection to Christianity.
It's just frustrating sometimes when he auto-jumps into thinking I consult with a Bible before I make every decision.
Thankfully things haven't gotten to that point yet, but sometimes it feels like he really does think I'm a mindless moron. He KNOWS I'm intelligent and he prides himself on marrying a woman with smarts, but when it comes to my conservative slant, he can't help himself when thinking it's based solely on my religion (because apparently conservatives can't be anything but Christian).
Ah well. I felt better after he'd sincerely apologized, because I know he realized his mistake. But it just drives me up a wall that he could've painted a picture of me to friends as some sort of bumbling idiot with no opinion outside of a Catholic coloring book.
Why is it that folks can't just accept that we are Catholic because we've looked at the world and wanted better? Expected better? Loved better?
This series deals with visionaries not yet approved by the Church. Under the umbrella of private revelation, it is up to each individual to decide for him/herself the truth of these claims. I am not suggesting you believe or disbelieve. I'm suggesting that the messages contained within are important enough to warrant an open and honest discussion. Above all, these messages deserve to be looked into with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. So please read this prayer before moving on:
O Holy Ghost, divine Spirit of light and love, I consecrate to Thee my understanding, my heart and my will, my whole being for time and for eternity. May my understanding be always obedient to Thy heavenly inspirations and the teachings of the holy Catholic Church, of which Thou art the infallible Guide; may my heart be ever inflamed with love of God and of my neighbor; may my will be ever conformed to the divine will, and may my whole life be a faithful following of the life and virtues of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and Thee be honor and glory for ever. Amen.
Prophecies II - The Warning
I hate to call it "The Warning." However, that's what everyone, including our Heavenly messengers, are calling it. I guess that's because it truly is a Warning. But it's not meant to be a warning in the sense that God is wagging His Finger at us while yelling from the front seat of the mini-van to be quiet.
Instead, it is an educational experience meant to teach us - once and for all - that God both exists and loves us with an incomprehensible passion... that He longs for us to return to our rightful inheritance.
How best to do this when so many of His children deny His existence? How best to do this when so many of us have never heard of Him? How best to do this when those who DO know Him don't understand Him?
Leave it to God to come up with a brilliant solution to all of those problems at once.
According to several different visionaries (including some who have already undergone a "mini-warning" so as to prepare the rest of us for the experience) humanity as a whole will undergo an Illumination of Conscience.
What exactly does this mean?
According to those who have undergone it (St. Faustina included), time stops and we will see our souls in the Light of God's Truth. We will experience a "mini-judgement" similar to what souls experience at death.
Time will stop and all of humanity from ages 7 on will experience this Illumination. We will immediately feel the overpowering Presence of God's Love encompassing us. Then, we will be shown all of those instances in which we were blessed with His Grace. We will see all those times in which we accepted His Grace, and all those times in which we rejected it (through sin).
In this way, we will immediately come to know not only God, but His Love for us and the myriad of ways in which He's shown us that Love throughout our lives.
This experience will be for believer and non-believer alike. It will happen simultaneously for everyone all throughout the world, and during this experience of intense love, we will understand for the first time what God expects of us as His children. Having seen our souls in this manner, we will know exactly what must be done in order to reconcile ourselves to Him.
There is also an added grace being granted, according to certain visionaries. During this brief Illumination (said to be about 15 minutes long), God will allow humanity to experience what it is to endure Hell. He will allow us all (saint and sinner alike) to feel the spiritual flames that are punishment for rejecting His Mercy and Love. So for a time during this Illumination, all will know what Hell is, and no more can folks insist that it does not exist.
How can this be considered mercy?
Well, is mercy not in ensuring your children understand the true ramifications for bad decisions? Is not mercy instilling knowledge of the Truth in them so that they may be equipped to choose the ways of Love and Mercy?
Allowing us to touch Hell allows us to break the bonds of disbelief. Allowing us to feel the flames of hatred allows us to know and cling to Love.
So yes... even the experience of Hell is Divine Mercy.
But more exciting... more incredible... more awe-inspiring is the idea that we will see ourselves before God and through His Eyes! We will experience His Love in totality! At the close of this experience (we are told) BILLIONS will be converted. To finally know, without a shadow of a doubt, that God exists and wants us back with Him in Heaven... to have a taste of His Love and to finally have the veil lifted from our sin-goggled eyes... oh joy of joys!!!
The Original "Hulk"
So a friend of mine brought up a good question while we were discussing theology yesterday. Mind you, this friend is an atheist (I wonder, sometimes, if I have any other variety), so the typical atheist "But What Abouts" came up.
But What Abouts (BWA) is my shorthand for any of the typical "But what about God telling you it's OK to kill a slave" or "But what about God allowing for rape so long as you pay the virgin's father a few shekels" arguments that arise when folks try to change a faithful person's belief in the truth of the Bible.
Anyway, the BWA that came up yesterday revolved around good old Samson. Many non-Christians are familiar with his story because he's typically portrayed as a Conan-like warrior with long, flowing locks that magically give him power to topple entire buildings with the flex of his biceps. The implication was that Christians believe in magic hair.
Unfortunately, what's typically left out of these childhood stories of Samson is anything of substance.
Samson wasn't just some Hulk-figure who had "magic hair." He was one of the Judges of the Old Testament.
Judges were God's answer to the constant failings of the Israelites during their 40 year punishment outside of the Promised Land. In the 40 year time span between Israel coming upon the Promised Land and finally inhabiting it, the Israelites went through a well documented cycle of:
"Hey, everyone, let's sin - it's fun!"
"Uh oh - now that we've sinned, we're being punished with the effects of our sin!"
"Aw, man! God, we're really sorry for disobeying Your Law again, can you please help us out by sending someone who will lead us to justice?"
God sends someone termed a "judge" to restore balance to the Israelites.
Everyone says, "Yay, God! Thanks for being awesome and saving us! We'll abide by Your Convenant forever."
A few years pass and then sin starts looking super fun again.
Repeat. A lot.
Samson was one of these judges that God raised up from amongst the Israelites to restore balance and justice to His people.
Not many people realize this, but Samson had an annunciation similar to John the Baptist. An angel appeared to his parents, too, and affirmed that, though they were barren, they'd bear a son who would save Israel from the Philistines. As such, the angel instructed his parents to raise him as a nazirite.
Now, what the heck is a nazirite?
Well, since the tribes forked over their right to perform priestly duties at both the Golden Calf incident and then again at the 1st attempt to enter Canaan, the Levites became the new priests of Israel. However, there were some "layfolk" who were permitted to help with priestly duties if they took special vows that set them apart from the general population. These were the nazirites.
One of the vows a nazirite took was the refusal to cut one's hair. Sound familiar?
Samson never cut his hair because he made a special vow to the Lord never to do so. It was this unwavering faith in God that gave Samson his strength. His hair was simply the symbol of his personal covenant with God. Samson handed over his life in service of the Lord, and in return, the Lord protected him and granted him the grace to deliver justice to the Israelites.
So to answer my friend's question regarding the "magic" of Samson's hair, I responded that no, Samson's hair wasn't magic. It was the symbol of his adherence to God's Will. It was only after Samson turned away from God's Will that his hair ended up being cut (the symbolic severance of their covenant) .
You see, Samson went and married a Philistine - TWICE - after God had specifically told the Israelites not to intermarry with them. Samson, unfortunately, allowed his personal desires to trump his duty as servant of the Lord. So he took two Philistine wives (Delilah came after his first wife was killed by her Philistine kin). In both instances, he chose to trust his wife before trusting the Will of God. Because of this disordered hierarchy of trust, Samson lost his first wife. For failing to learn this lesson the first time, Samson lost his eyes as well as his life the second time.
Hippie Justice League!
So no - Samson's hair did not hold any magical powers. His hair was a sign, however, of his adherence to God's Will. As soon as he turned away from God's Will by placing his desires above God's, he suffered the consequences.
Having his hair shorn was simply the physical desecration of the spiritual desecration that had already taken place the moment Samson committed mortal sin.
Good thing, too. Can you imagine the Hulk-smashing that would've occurred in the 60's had magic hair been the source of Samson's strength?! Yipes!
In the end, as Samson spent many sleepless, pain-filled nights begging the forgiveness of God, he made reparation for his sins. Each day of reparation drew him closer to the eventual destruction of the temple that would garner justice for himself and Israel. He spent many, many nights in atonement for his sin, so when he was finally brought to the temple as "entertainment" for the Philistines, his hair had grown back in. Again, this isn't pointing to Samson having magic hair... it's highlighting that Samson had spent time reflecting on and atoning for his sins against God. God then gifted Mercy to Samson through blessing him with the strength to dole out justice to the Philistines.
His hair was simply a symbolic manifestation of the blessing God bestowed in return for Samson's faithful service.
The Name of Christ is mighty
Apparently the Name of Christ is more dangerous to the public than concealed weapons (which are perfectly legal) in N. Carolina.
I found a seed on Father Z's blog this morning detailing a new policy enacted in N. Carolina regarding police chaplains' ability to use Christ's name while praying at public events.
One chaplain's response was like an arrow to my heart... a beautiful, wonderful arrow of integrity and wisdom.
Pastor Terry Sartain, upon learning of this change, withdrew from the event because, "Jesus is the only thing I have to bless people with."
This man understands what so many others do not. The Name of Christ is one of our greatest blessings. It's why we always ask for everything "in Jesus' Name." Christ left us even the grace of His own Name to help shield us from harm.
Other religions treat the names of their gods / prophets as unspeakable or curse-inducing utterances. Not Christianity. We were blessed to understand that our God is a loving God who WANTS a personal relationship with us. He WANTS us to know Him intimately. Thus, He blesses us with the comfort of His Holy Name.
To remove our ability to call out His blessing through using His Name, this policy effectively steals from us our ability to properly pray. It also forces us to deny the God who gave His Life for our salvation.
And I can't help but know with certainly that the developers of this policy fully understood that. I believe Satan and his demons coated this with the sugar of tolerance and unity, but in reality, this is just one more step towards a global "religion" that is no religion at all.
It is a dismantling of Christianity in lieu of agnosticism. It is a stifling of our faith... another gentle inoculation to prevent the spread of Christ's Name to new generations of souls. This has nothing to do with tolerance. It is INTOLERANCE that has paved the way for this desecration of religious liberties.
But few will see it this way because so many are grateful for the chance to cast aside the trappings of religion. Their own opinions on religion cloud their ability to see beyond the "Don't use Jesus' Name" and realize that it is a tiny cog in a bigger machine that is shooting down a person's individual right to practice their religion as he or she sees fit.
Chaplains are VOLUNTEERS. They are volunteering their time to give comfort to the men and women who serve. At a prayer service (if one is requested by the police force), folks EXPECT to hear names like Jesus, God, Buddha or Mohammad. These words do not point a finger at atheists, Jews or Spaghetti Monster believers in an attempt to say "You're going to a naughty place for not believing!" If you invite a volunteer chaplain to one of these prayer services, you're inviting their brand of religion. If you don't want to be stifled by Christianity, find a volunteer who will speak what you're looking for. But do NOT, NOT, NOT attempt to tell someone how they can and cannot pray (publicly or otherwise!).
These chaplains (whatever their religion may be) are looking to offer comfort in the form of a universal blessing. Christ does not just bless Christians. He blesses all, regardless of their belief in Him.
If someone were to say to me, "May the Spaghetti Monster's blessing be upon you always" I'd say, "Right on, good sir. Thanks for having my back with the warm fuzzies."
I would not respond, "Dude, I believe in JESUS, okay? Stop insulting me with your well-wishes!"
And yet that's exactly what is being done by this policy. It is ludicrous and is once again an attempt by policy makers to stifle the religious freedoms of folks... folks who are VOLUNTEERING THEIR TIME for goodness sake!
It reminds me of this yearly mess... Will this sort of foolishness have no end?
This is a perfect time for the Golden Arrow Prayer. It was given to St. Gertrude the Great by Christ, Himself, who said, "It will wound My Heart delightfully and heal the wounds inflicted by blasphemy."
As I said on Fr. Z's wall, I hope in this case it will heal the wounds inflicted by arrogance, silence and betrayal.
May the most holy, most sacred, most adorable, most incomprehensible and ineffable Name of God be forever praised, blessed, loved, adored and glorified in Heaven, on Earth, and under the Earth by all the creatures of God and by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen.
Saturday into Sunday, my son couldn't sleep. I had attempted soothing him in my bed, but he wasn't having any of it. As a result, both of us were up for the better part of the night.
John finally woke up around 6:30 and took Vince downstairs so I could sleep a bit. Thankful, I immediately fell back to sleep and didn't wake up again until 9:50 - ten minutes before the last Mass at my parish.
John must've noticed that, too, 'cause he shouted up almost instantly, "Gina? Don't you gotta go to Mass or something?"
*Smile* I actually grinned when he said that.
I shouted back down that it was OK, I'd just go to a later Mass in Philly since there was no way I'd get ready in time for the 10.
See, I'd originally wanted to go to Incarnation's Mass, but it simply wasn't in the cards. Instead, I decided to go to St. William's - another parish affected by the closings. They're the only Church I know of in my area that does a Sunday night Mass.
John asked me how far away St. William's was. I said, "About 45 minutes." He replied with, "Seriously? You're gonna travel 45 minutes for Mass? I think God'll forgive you for missing."
I shook my head. It's not about God forgiving me for missing. It's about me wanting to go and being fully able to. I said that. I said, "John, I WANT to go." He just snorted again, obviously confused as to why I'd ever wanna do something boring like go to Mass.
A few hours later, while the football games were well under-way, our cousin went through the same spiel. I think John brought it up again just to needle me with backup, but I didn't mind. I understand their views and accept that they simply don't understand mine. So when our cousin said, "God goes to bed early on Sundays" in an attempt to poke fun at my desire to attend a later Mass, I responded with the same level of ridiculousness.
On my way home from Mass, though, I realized that I honestly, truly do love attending Mass. It's not like that's news to me. However, that SHOULD'VE been my response to my cousin. While sarcasm and funny quips are what come naturally to me in those circumstances, I'd probably get further expressing myself on terms they'd be familiar with.
How often do both he and John travel well over 45 minutes just to get a "Fat Sandwich" from a truck outside Rutgers? How many times have they crossed state lines simply to attend a wrestling match or a sports game? They've traveled much more (and for much less) than I have. Yet because they place more value on things like food and entertainment, I am the one who must be out of my mind.
Ha ha. The mindset of the atheist. Gotta appreciate the irony.
I harbor no resentment for being teased in this manner. Neither one of them is attempting to hurt my feelings. Sure they wanna poke fun at the religious chick who is obviously out of her mind sometimes for believing in God, the tooth fairy and unicorns, but I take it in stride. They don't know any better, and I can't fault them for that. I've been blessed to know God. I've been blessed to feel His Love and to know His Mother. That doesn't make me better or worse than these two. That's something I've come to learn these last few months. This love I have - this peace I have regarding religion and God - it is a gift.
I never really understood that. I always thought, "It's because I've logically thought everything out. It makes sense to me, so I believe it. It doesn't make sense to others because they're either not smart enough, or not willing enough to attempt learning."
How foolish of me. My spiritual progression has nothing much to do with me at all. This love for Christ and this love for the Blessed Mother has ALWAYS been within me. It's never something I've had to work for. It's never something I've questioned. For me to think I somehow arrived at that intrinsic love logically is ridiculous. I realize now it was gifted to me.
My spiritual director - for YEARS - told me that inner certainty of love and peace was a gift. I always kinda nodded, hearing what she said but not understanding it fully. Now I understand. And I am truly grateful for such a gift. Each night, when I put Vince to bed, I ask Our Lady to pray for that same love for Vincent. I ask God to grant Vince the same sense of love and knowledge of Him that I have - even stronger.
Oh if only all people could open their hearts to Him. How happy we all could be in knowing His Love! :)
So yes, I am more than happy to go to Mass. I'd be more than happy to travel 45 minutes or more for the chance to be present at our most prized Sacrifice of Love.
True photo of an in-womb child.
_The below text is taken from Richard Wurmbrand's Tortured for Christ. For those of you who have not yet read this book, please avail yourselves to its contents here.
I've been thinking about this a lot recently. It's probably one of the most thought-provoking moments in his memoir (and he's got a LOT of those!). Ever since first reading it (several months ago), I've been unable to parray it from my mind for very long. It swooped in and enveloped my conscious again yesterday, when a friend asked me how I could possibly be sure there was an afterlife.
"Suppose that we could speak with an embryo in his mother's womb and that you would tell him that the embryonic life is only a short one after which follows a real, long life. What would the embryo answer? He would say just what you atheists answer to us, when we speak to you about paradise and hell. He would say that the life in the mother's womb is the only one and that everything else is religious foolishness. But if the embryo could think, he would say to himself, ‘Here arms grow on me. I do not need them. I cannot even stretch them. Why do they grow? Perhaps they grow for a future stage of my existence, in which I will have to work with them. Legs grow, but I have to keep them bent toward my chest. Why do they grow? Probably life in a large world follows, where I will have to walk. Eyes grow, although I am surrounded by perfect darkness and don't need them. Why do I have eyes? Probably a world with light and colors will follow.'
"So, if the embryo would reflect on his own development, he would know about a life outside of his mother's womb, without having seen it. It is the same with us. As long as we are young, we have vigor, but no mind to use it properly. When, with the years, we have grown in knowledge and wisdom, the hearse waits to take us to the grave. Why was it necessary to grow in a knowledge and wisdom that we can use no more? Why do arms, legs, and eyes grow on an embryo? It is for what follows. So it is with us here. We grow here in experience, knowledge, and wisdom for what follows. We are prepared to serve on a higher level that follows death."
This truly is a beautiful insight... an inspired insight. May it touch you as it has touched me.
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